BY CRAIG COLEY
Bloomington is capping its bicentennial year by initiating a plan to build new trails for recreation and transportation. The project has not been designed and may take five years to complete, but the impact on the city’s quality of life will continue for generations says Paula McDevitt, director of the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department.
“This year, we’ve been looking back at our history but also planning what we can do now that will continue to give to this community and to future generations,” McDevitt says. “One really solid way to do that is building trails and planting trees. Every time we do a community survey, we hear that what this community enjoys, supports, and wants more of is trails.”
The plan includes connecting the new Switchyard Park with Wapehani Mountain Bike Park on the city’s southwest side by paving a 1.3-mile path along a Duke Energy utility easement. A 3.5-mile unpaved loop trail will be created around Griffy Lake, and Cascades Park Trail will be extended south from Lower Cascades Park to College Avenue. As new trails connect with existing trails, more of the city will be accessible on foot and by bike.
“A network is greater than the sum of its parts,” says Neil Kopper, City of Bloomington interim transportation and traffic engineer. “The B-Line Trail, where you can go north to south, is great, but if you have a whole network where you can get around the city and make other connections, it becomes a lot more valuable.”
Included in the plan are changes to 7th Street, with the goal of making it a safer and more comfortable bikeway for east-west travel. Kopper says 7th Street is identified in city transportation plans as a priority for walking and biking, but people complain it isn’t working well. The city plans to improve the section of 7th Street between the B-Line Trail and North Woodlawn Avenue, with bike lanes separated from car lanes by a physical barrier such as a raised curb. Less intensive safety measures are planned for the section west of the Indiana University campus.
The projects will cost $10 million, funded by selling bonds that will be repaid with an increase of property tax rates—3 cents per $100 of assessed value for 20 years. In addition to the trails, the bonds will fund the planting of 1,400 street trees, the improvement of several downtown alleys, and beautification efforts at important entries to the city.
Bicentennial commemorative items have been on sale throughout the year at City Hall, 401 N. Morton St. Just in time for the holidays: a holiday ornament for $5.
Still available are the Bicentennial Arbor Day posters for $10, with copies signed by the artist for $20. There are also large and small tote bags ($20 and $15) and pint glasses ($5).
New Year’s Eve celebration
The City will wrap up the bicentennial year with a New Year’s Eve celebration at City Hall. The family-friendly event will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m., December 31. It will include heavy appetizers, deejayed music, and projects to entertain the kids.