Gov. Holcomb Joins Merrillville, State, County Officials for Trail Dedication

DSC_1It was years in the making, and well worth the wait.
Gov. Eric Holcomb joined Merrillville, state, and county officials on Tuesday, April 30, to dedicate the extension of the C&O Trail in Merrillville and Lake County.
Merrillville received a $1.4 million grant through the state’s Next Level Trails program to build the 1.35-mile extension. Connected to the project is a 1.47-mile segment Lake County Parks constructed using more than $800,000 in Next Level Trail funding.
The extended path marks the 100th mile of trail built with Next Level Trail funding.
“Today just kind of proves big things can be done in Indiana, big things should be done, big things are needed to be done, and this is just proof positive that when we do come together…we can do what’s not been done before,” Holcomb said.
Merrillville Town Council President Rick Bella said the project shows how important it is to develop partnerships to accomplish major goals.
“Projects of this magnitude require collaboration, dedication, and a shared vision,” Bella said. “Each of you gathered here today has demonstrated these qualities, and your efforts have translated into a lasting asset for our community. This trail extension will be enjoyed by generations to come, serving as a testament to the impact of the collective effort.”
The town’s portion of the project extends the trail from the Innsbrook Country Club and heads north to meet the Lake County Parks’ section west of Hendricks Street.
Holcomb said the C&O Trail, like many trails in Indiana, provides connections to municipalities, communities, and other areas. Bella agrees with the statement.
“This extension not only enhances our local C&O Trail, but also contributes to the broader connectivity of trails, including the expansive Erie Lackawanna Trail,” he said.
Lake County Park Board President Chris Dilts said the County Parks Department is thankful it could collaborate with the state and Merrillville on the trail extension.
“It’s an honor to be present for the completion of another trail,” Dilts said.
Bella said Merrillville began pursuing the project about five years ago under the visionary leadership of former Merrillville Town Manager Bruce Spires.
Steve King, Merrillville’s Engineering Administrator/Street Department Director, took the lead after Spires retired, and he was assisted by Planning and Building Director Sheila Shine and Matt Lake, Executive Director of the Stormwater Management Utility, to see the extension come to completion.
“To everyone involved, I extend my deepest gratitude for your contributions in making this vision a reality,” Bella said. “Let us take pride in what we have achieved together.”
Dan Bortner, Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said the state has invested $180 million through four rounds of the Next Level Trails grant program. Those dollars have been committed to 89 trail projects.
“Next Level Trails is truly a transformational program both for Indiana and communities across our state,” Bortner said.
Mitch Barloga, Active Transportation Planner for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, said the trail extension in Merrillville and Lake County not only marks 100 miles of trail developed under Next Level Trails. It also resulted in another local milestone.
“I am proud to let you know this is the 200th mile (of trail) in Northwest Indiana that is open today,” Barloga said.