Working to close the downtown gap in bike trail

(Posted Feb. 2, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

The Madison County commissioners hope to acquire 5.4 acres of land in downtown London to further close a gap in the county’s portion of the Ohio To Erie Trail.

The Ohio To Erie Trail is a recreational trail that runs between Cincinnati and Cleveland, primarily along former railroad and canal beds. About 270 miles of the route are on separate paved trails; the other 50 are on city streets and rural roads.

Madison County is home to 18 miles of the route, between the Franklin County line on London’s east side and the Clark County line on the west side. Most of it is on separate paved trails; however, between Maple and Midway streets in downtown London, trail users must use Center Street (Route 665) or the city’s side streets.

The Friends of the Madison County Parks and Trails (FMCPT), a non-profit volunteer group that helps to maintain and improve the trail, wants to see all of Madison County’s portion of the trail off-street. The challenge is to acquire land in the 1.13-mile gap to connect the east and west sides of the paved trail. That requires negotiations with several property owners and an active railroad.

One property owner who is ready to sell is Kelley Manns. He is offering to sell a 5.4-acre parcel between Maple and Walnut streets, bordered on one side by the active railroad that runs through downtown London. A separate abandoned railbed runs through the property, the same railbed that the Roberts Pass Trail already follows from Maple Street to Wilson Road.

The county commissioners are applying for a Clean Ohio Trail Fund grant to purchase the property so that the trail can be extended another one-third of a mile along the abandoned railbed. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources administers the grant. The application deadline was Jan. 31. The grant is not guaranteed.

The appraised market value of the property is $162,500. The grant would cover 75 percent of the cost and require the county to match the other 25 percent. Manns is willing to sell the property below market value by $30,700, which could be considered a donation applicable to the 25 percent match, leaving the county responsible for $9,925.

Wayne Roberts, FMCPT executive director, said closing the gap would increase trail usage and the likelihood that more trail users would patronize downtown businesses.

“Currently, too many riders (coming from the east) are stopping at Maple Street and turning around,” he said. Securing and developing the Manns property would get trail users another block closer to Main Street where restaurants and other facilities are more visible.

If the county gets the Clean Ohio Trail grant and purchases the Manns property, the next step would be to build the trail extension. Roberts said FMCPT volunteers would do most of the brush clearing along the abandoned railbed and raise funds for the rest of the project, including laying asphalt.

“We will be doing significant crowdfunding. We hope to finance much of the construction locally with business partners and donations,” Roberts said.

For more about FMCPT, go to www.fmcpt.com.

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