Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 10, 2013

Trail project reaches a dead end

INDOT revokes funding for project

By Carson Gerber
Kokomo Tribune

CONVERSE — The Indiana Department of Transportation has killed a proposed trail project in Converse after pulling all its grant funding in December.

Joe Lenon, Converse Council Chairman who has spearheaded the project, said the town has worked for a decade to turn a 3.5-mile stretch of abandoned railroad into a paved trail. The $1.2 million trail would have started in Converse and run east into Grant County, connecting with Sweetser Switch Trail on 700 West.

However, Lenon said the town was having trouble raising its portion of money to match the grant approved by INDOT. He said the town needed to raise over $300,000 for the project.

Town officials sent a reduced project proposal to INDOT last year, requesting funding for just a 1-mile stretch of the trail. INDOT answered by saying it was yanking all funding for the entire project, Lenon said.

INDOT officials said the project was taking too long to complete and needed to be fully funded, he said. It also said it pulled the money because the reduced trail would no longer connect to Sweetser Switch Trail.

“We were really, really disappointed,” Lenon said. “We were getting really close, darn it. We almost had that one-mile section complete.”

Although the project is dead, he said town officials will continue to look at options to refund the trail.

“I think our attitude here is that we’ve already gone this far, we might as well try to find a way to make this happen,” he said. “This trail would be a great thing for local residents, because it really enhances the quality of life here in Converse.”

A public hearing was held at 5 p.m. Thursday at Converse Town Hall. The meeting was scheduled before INDOT denied the funding to discuss the proposed route of the trail, but Lenon said they discussed ways to pay for the project.

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached by phone at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.