By LOUIS WYATT
LEO-CEDARVILLE — Members of the Leo-Cedarville Town Council and other officials heard residents’ concerns and suggestions June 5 regarding a future trail system that will eventually create a path from Metea Park through Leo and Grabill, connecting to the Hurshtown Reservoir.
The town is working alongside Grabill and Allen County on the project, which was spurred by the NewAllen Alliance’s Stellar Communities designation, and made possible by the Alliance’s Stellar grant.
NewAllen Alliance President Kent Castleman said the plans presented last week were a result of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Capital Improvement Board urging the alliance to “think bigger.” Last year, the board awarded $1.5 million for the project, which has become known as the Cedar Creek Parks Trail. Allen County Council also awarded the Alliance $1.25 million in funding last year.
The project will cost, at minimum, about $6.6 million, and though the end points of the trail have been established, officials welcomed residents’ suggestions on how to connect them during last week’s meeting.
“Our work is to make sure point A to point B is completed,” Castleman said. “However, as we’ve been talking about that in Leo-Cedarville, there have been some alternate ideas discussed, and even when we were bringing up our first proposal, we weren’t exactly sure how we were going to get from Metea into downtown Leo-Cedarville.”
Derek Frederickson, of Engineering Resources, presented three “strategic points” in the current plans, which include making connection points at Metea, Leo-Cedarville Town Park and Riverside Gardens Park, tying in with an existing trail on Grabill Road.
Frederickson said the positives of the “north trail system” — which would include a stretch along Halter Road from Hursh Road to Hosler Road, and then east along Hosler to the connection point at Grabill Road —include connecting with Leo High School, several neighborhoods and the section of downtown currently scheduled for redevelopment.
A proposed leg of trail along Amstutz Road will be included in a federal road improvement project, which is currently scheduled for completion at the end of 2024. From there, the trail could travel down Trading Post Road and then south to Gerig Road and Ewing Street, where it could cut east to connect to the Leo-Cedarville Town Park pavilion. However, those stretches of trail are not currently part of the town’s plan.
Though the town is considering several routes, the north trail system alone will cost the $1.5 million awarded by the capital improvement board. Any other stretches of trail would cost additional funds. Currently, the town has $650,000 budgeted for trail projects, and Town Manager Patrick Proctor said the Cedar Creek Parks Trail will likely require at least a $1 million investment from the town.
“We’re trying to develop a feasible, realistic plan that at some point is supported by funding resources to make it a reality,” Frederickson said.
About 10 residents attended last week’s meeting, including representatives from NewAllen Alliance. Several of the individuals offering public comments were hopeful the town would not opt to run trails alongside S.R. 1.
“All of the partners are coming to the table and have had a handle on it for quite a while, and it’s great for the county, the CIB and the commissioners to come up with this amount of money, but one thing that you always want to be conscious of is safety,” NewAllen Alliance Vice President Barb Smith said.
Another resident, who is originally from Bluffton, said that as a parent she was concerned about a stretch of trail there that ran alongside a busy road — and that she didn’t want to see the same thing in Leo. Two other residents supported the proposed stretch of trail from Hosler to Halter, as they felt it would provide a safe route for students walking to school from nearby neighborhoods.
Terry Jo Lightfoot, another town resident, was especially enthusiastic about the project and said she and her family would be willing to donate a portion of their land to be included in the trail system.
Once completed, the Cedar Creek Parks Trail will be part of the United Trails system, which connects 11 counties in northeast Indiana.
“We would be able to go from Leo to anywhere — we could go to Huntertown, we could go to downtown Fort Wayne. This is a major thing,” Smith said.