City officials have targeted stretches of the Industrial Heritage Trail in an effort to more fully connect a trail system that runs from Kokomo into Fulton County.
The work will improve multiple sections of trail, easing the navigation required by bicyclists and walkers, and ensure an simpler trip for people traveling the roughly 40 miles of available, connected trailway - from its southern point near Monterrey Mexican Cuisine to its northern tip in Rochester.
This week, the Kokomo Board of Public Works and Safety approved a warranty deed and a land purchase for the Heritage Trail Project, located on the east side of 110 E. Morgan St., along now-defunct railroad tracks.
The project, explained Kokomo city engineer Cary Stranahan, includes an short extension of the Industrial Heritage Trail (IHT) from Morgan Street up to Northside Park, 2200 N. Main St.
It is the last remaining parcel, he said, needed to connect the trail from a trailhead at Elm Street to the park, best known as the home of Northside Youth Baseball League.
“We expect to begin the trail installation on this property next week,” said Stranahan in an email Thursday.
In conjunction, as trailhead work at Elm Street nears completion, the IHT will be extended north from Elm Street, near Tom Thumb Tavern, to North Street, helping ensure there is a protected trail from Elm Street to Northside Park.
But more work will be done.
“We are also developing a plan to improve the trail between North Street and Morgan Street,” added Stranahan, referencing a stretch of the trail system that currently runs alongside Main Street.
“We expect the work to be completed this fall.”
Trail work has become a constant during the warm-weather months in Kokomo.
Last summer, city officials acquired a home in the 900 block of North Buckeye Street, a decision that allowed them to extend the Industrial Heritage Trail in the most convenient way possible, said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight in June 2017.
“The issue was, as we’re trying to do these last pieces of connecting the north side with the downtown to the south side, there was one home, one resident who lived on Buckeye,” he said. “So instead of having a mixed-use trail, we decided, let’s go out to the owner and see if they’re interested [in selling].”
The owner, in fact, was interested and sold the home to the city.
The city then extended the trail on Buckeye Street from Monroe Street to Elm Street, complete with tree planting and other beautification efforts.
“A trail is not just a slab of cement or a stretch of asphalt,” said Goodnight about the city’s approach to its trail system. “You need the amenities; you need trash receptacles and you need benches. Some areas need lighting, things like that, proper signage.
“We want to do it right as we do this, as opposed to hurrying up and doing it with just a bunch of painted stripes and causing confusion.”
Then, in late June, local officials opened the long-awaited $2.5 million pedestrian bridge over Indiana 931, allowing cyclists and walkers to travel more than 40 miles on the Nickel Plate Trail and the Industrial Heritage Trail from Kokomo to Rochester.
Mike Kuepper, president of the Nickel Plate Trail organization who spearheaded the construction of the pathway in Miami County, said having a bridge to connect the trail to Kokomo was something he’s always dreamed about. Now, it’s a dream come true.
“This bridge is a huge step forward for the trail,” he said. “I think more people are going to travel here for this trail now because of the amenities offered in Kokomo. I know so many people are going to use it now, because it’s just so much more convenient.”
The bridge also dovetailed with other major projects on the trail. The city of Peru was recently awarded $200,000 to extend the Nickel Plate 2 miles through the city. Kuepper said Rochester is also extending the trail into its downtown.