McCORDSVILLE — Golden scissors snipped over the length of red ribbon, leading to applause from a small but dedicated audience of McCordsville’s town council members and Geist Harbours homeowners.
The opening of the Tri-County Connector bicycle and walking path has been a complicated project for all parties involved, said Tonya Galbraith, McCordsville Town Manager. The endeavor was five years in the making thanks to a number of bureaucratic barriers, but the task is complete, and a genuine safety hazard has been successfully addressed, she said.
The total cost of the project was $106,423. The town covered 57 percent of the cost for a total of $60,310, while the Geist Harbours Property Owners Association paid for 43 percent, according to Galbraith.
The Tri-County Connector is a bike path approximately 1,050 feet long, located in the northwestern-most corner of the McCordsville town limits, crossing the borders of Hancock, Hamilton and Marion counties.
For years, the homeowners in Cardinal Woods Common Area — the surrounding neighborhood on Geist Reservoir — expressed growing concerns about the lack of a pedestrian walkway at the bend in the road on North County Road 700W, said Tom Britt, former Property Owners Association president.
Anyone who resides in the area understands how dangerous that particular stretch of road was to travelers going to or from the marina, he said. The high speed traffic, hazardous terrain and low visibility for drivers coming around the corner could feel like a death sentence to pedestrians and cyclists, Britt said. But it was a key entry and exit point to visitors and residents of the Geist Harbour area.
“I call it the Panama Canal because it was the shortest piece of property that meant so much to the connectivity to our whole area,” Britt said.
The location in question was by Treasure Point in Indianapolis, near the tri-county border, and obtaining both permission and funding to begin construction on the pathway proved difficult because of jurisdiction concerns, Britt said. Municipality powers, Indianapolis City-County Council and residents who owned property on the projected trail area all had to be consulted before planning for the project could even begin.
Fortunately, the town of McCordsville came to the rescue and helped make the Tri-County Connector a reality, Britt said. But even with their help, it still wasn’t easy.
Beginning in 2013, McCordsville focused on finding funding, applying for Place Based Grant funding through the Indiana Division of Tourism, as well as federal funding but they were unsuccessful, Galbraith said. Funding aside, efforts to get egress easement rights presented a new challenge altogether, but after pushing through negotiations with each concerned Cardinal Woods property owner and the assessor’s office, the town finally acquired the property in 2015, Galbraith said.
The design was completed in 2016, and the bid was awarded by the town council that September, said town engineer Mark Witsman.
It’s funny how it took six years to build 1,000 feet of trail, Witsman said. After years of discouraging obstacles, it seemed as though the plans for actually creating the trail would repeatedly die and come back to life, Witsman said.
“We buried this project about four or five times, between all the hurdles we came up with,” Witsman said. “This has been like the Frankenstein project.”
“They say you can’t hurry progress, and that is the case here,” Galbraith said at the ceremony.
“It was hazardous,” she said. “But the trail is now safely connected.”