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Hiking, biking trail effort aims to span region

Dunes-Kankakee Trail Meeting

5:30 p.m. Monday, Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center, 1215 N. Indiana 49, Porter

Updated: January 23, 2012 2:58AM



A joint effort to reconstruct the Calumet Trail will help form two larger regional trails, one linking the Kankakee River to the National Lakeshore and the separate Marquette Greenway trail linking Chicago to New Buffalo, Mich.

The town of Porter and Porter County want public input about Dunes-Kankakee trail amenities and Indiana 49/U.S. 20 trail construction at a meeting Monday evening.

Nearly 40 years old, western trail segments are overgrown, washed out or constantly flooded. Stretching east from the trail’s Mineral Springs Road terminus, 2 to 4 miles will be paved to improve the trail, which sits below the water table. The Regional Development Authority and Porter County Parks and Recreation, which received Federal Highway Authority grants, will fund the project.

“It provides an east-west connector,” Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore spokeswoman Lynda Lancaster said. “It’s nice to be able to do those long-distance bikings without being hit by a truck. Plus, you get to see some nice habitat.”

The Marquette Greenway trail, part of the Marquette Plan proposed by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, will reconstruct unusable trails and link existing trails to form one continuous trail from Chicago’s Calumet Park to New Buffalo. The Dunes-Kankakee trail will run from the Kankakee River east to the Indiana Dunes State Park, linking the beach, the new state park entrance and the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitors’ Center.

The Calumet Trail will also be connected to the 9-mile Prairie Duneland paved trail via Porter’s Brickyard Trail. The Brickyard Trail and the Calumet Trail paving will be complete by late summer or early fall 2012, said Mitch Barloga, non-motorized transportation planner for Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

“It is the entrance way to the Dunes for those looking to access amenities by non-motorized vehicles,” Barloga said. “Non-motorized vehicles are having a lot of trouble getting up to the beach.”

The Calumet Trail, Prairie Duneland Trail and Brickyard trail will form a 5-mile loop to allow nearby residents to access the beaches on foot and by bike.

“When you’re riding up to the beach, you get to this place in Chesterton where you’re on your own,” Barloga said. “You’ve got railways and interstates and highways. It’s a mess.”

Barloga said the project will also help direct people to a clear park entrance.

“Where do you enter the Dunes? You have a state park, a national lakeshore and it’s kind of ambiguous,” he said.

The Calumet Trail renovation is part of a larger initiative in the area by the RDA, which has funded lakeshore trails in the Whiting-Hammond area, and the town of Porter, where the Indiana 49 “Gateway to the Dunes” project was just completed.

The RDA has also helped expedite funding for the project. Barloga said projects using federal money usually take five to seven years to complete, sometimes even longer.

“Because we’re using RDA monies, everything will be complete by this time next year,” he said.



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