Move afoot to improve portion of bike path
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent July 14, 2014 5:28PM
Crown Point resident Felix Odusaga rests from his walk on the Erie Lackawanna Trail Thursday evening in Merrillville. The roof of the shelter has chunks of wood missing. | Karen Caffarini~for Sun-Times Media
Collecting plastic caps
What: Any type of plastic cap except those with spray attachments are being collected to obtain recycled plastic benches through Lake County Solid Waste Management District.
Where: The caps can be dropped off at Merrillville’s Stormwater building, 7404 Broadway until April 30, 2015.
How: Bags must be in 13-gallon tall garbage cans with the name of the organization it’s being collected for written on the bag with permanent marker.
Suitable caps: All plastic caps except those with spray attachments. Suitable caps include those from milk containers, laundry and dishwashing detergent, water and pop bottles. (219) 384-6684
Updated: July 21, 2014 12:20PM
MERRILLVILLE — A town councilwoman wants to spruce up Merrillville’s portion of the Erie Lackawanna Bike Trail and is reaching out to the schools and comunity for help.
Sitting underneath the shelter at 91st Avenue one evening last week as dozens of walkers, joggers, bike riders and roller-bladers cruised by, Councilwoman Chrissy Barron, D-5th, pointed to the shelter’s roof, which is badly in need of repair, the overflowing garbage can, one picnic bench and the lack of landscaping.
“This is where everyone stops when families are riding together,” Barron said.
Barron, a frequent user of the trail herself, said the path that stretches from Crown Point to Hammond, is busy all the time.
She said she’d like to landscape the area with mosquito-repellant plants, repair or build a new shelter and add new, recycled benches in the shelter area and perhaps add a couple more benches along the Merrillville stretch of the trail.
Barron said she reached out to the Merrillville Community Schol Corp. to see if some high school art students would paint a mural in the tunnel under U.S. 30. She said the county offers free recycled paint, with a $3 charge for color tint per gallon.
“If it can be used for outdoors, we could use the paint for the mural and the shelter,” Barron said.
She’s hoping an area landscape company will donate plants, noting it’s getting toward the end of the season and many of the plantings might be thrown out anyway. She said she’s been in talks with Mitch Barloga, transportation planning manager for Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, about possible grants for the shelter.
Barron said she already has three recycled green benches through the Lake County Solid Waste Management District’s plastic bottle cap program as a result of an anonymous donation. She’s calling on residents, school children, organizations and others to collect their plastic bottle caps for the next 10 months so she can hopefully get four more benches through the same program next spring.
The deadline to turn in the bottle caps is May 1.
Barron said she’d like to use two or three of those benches in the shelter area and would like to add a couple more along the trail.
She said benches could also be used at other locations in town, such as the lot that holds a retention pond in The Preserve subdivision off Mississippi Street and behind Southlake Mall or where the vacant Old Mill restaurant now stands at 73rd Avenue and Madison, if it’s determined the historic building can’t be restored.
The solid waste district picks up the cost of the benches provided 400 pounds of the caps are collected per bench, said Racina Kovach, building manager for the solid waste management district’s education center and environmental education assistant.
“The whole idea of the program is to get people interested in recycling,” Kovach said.
The 6-foot long green benches are made by Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, where solid waste district employees will take the caps and pick up the benches next May. Barron said they need to be placed on concrete pads, an expense she believes the town can pick up.
Barron said she doesn’t believe there will be any difficulty in getting enough plastic cap donations to obtain a few more benches. She noted that the town was able to get two benches for the 54th Court rain garden in just a few months.
The councilwoman herself has already started collecting the plastic caps, finding some in her garage, and in the overflowing garbage can at the shelter.
Crown Point resident Felix Odusaga stopped at the shelter for a rest while walking the trail.
“It sounds good to me.” he said when Barron told him of her plans.
Odusaga, who walked from Summit Street in Crown Point, said there’s a nice shelter in Griffith.
“Why should we settle for this,” Barron asked.
“If Merrillville doesn’t do something with the bike trail we’re missing the boat,” she said.