HAPPY TRAILS?

The city’s trails committee has revealed its plan to develop a network of nearly 75 miles of new facilities for walking and biking.

It’s an ambitious but long-term blueprint for a project that will provide better connectivity between popular locations in the city, increase opportunities for exercise and recreation and give people another option for transportation, officials said.

During a well-attended public meeting Thursday to unveil the details of the trail development plan, there was much excitement and enthusiasm for the project.

“We’re really excited to get this plan going,” said Brent Jameson, Seymour Parks and Recreation Department director.

Although he believes the plan can be implemented, he said it wouldn’t happen overnight.

“This is more of a marathon than a sprint,” he said of the time it will take to complete the trails.

But there also were concerns expressed from a few property owners whose farmland south of the city has been designated for a major stretch of the trail.

Brad Schepman and Kenny Pfaffenberger both attended Thursday’s meeting and said they weren’t sure how the city planned to take the trail through their fields without their permission or without purchasing the property first.

“This is the first time for me to see this, and right now, you don’t have the right to put a bike trail there,” Pfaffen-berger said.

Schepman said he isn’t against the trail project at all.

“I think it’s neat,” he said. “I have three girls who like to ride their bikes.”

But he questions how the city will be able to police the trails.

“You wouldn’t believe what I find out there now,” he said referring to drug paraphernalia.

He also doesn’t like the idea of people walking or biking on trails when he’s trying to irrigate his fields.

Irrigation equipment is expensive and would go right over the proposed trails, making it unsafe, he said.

Sheila McKinley with Christopher B. Burke Engineering said the routes are those suggested by members of the trails committee and the public through an online survey and a workshop; however, they would have to be approved first by the city council.

“This just gets all those ideas onto paper, and it’s something the city can use when applying for grants and securing donations,” she said.

One of the biggest hurdles now is raising the funds needed to begin construction of the first phase of priority routes.

Those routes consist of a mile of new sidewalk, mainly throughout the Eastside Industrial Park, over Burkart Boulevard and east along Tipton Street to the Interstate 65 interchange.

Another eight miles will consist of shared, on-road bike lanes, some of which will allow for safer riding outside city limits along Enos Road and County Road 1040E.

The biggest expense, however, will be for the first 10 miles of planned off-road multipurpose trails around Freeman Field Industrial Park and south of city limits, where the city is looking to annex property, construct a new sanitary sewer line and expand Burkart Boulevard.

Although a total cost for the trails wasn’t presented, the committee is seeking corporate sponsors and major gifts to get started.

The first fundraiser, Seymour’s Greatest Loser Competition, begins May 2.

Each participating team of 10 employees will compete to lose the most weight. Each sponsoring business pays $5,000 to enter a team. Some of the sponsorship money will be used as cash prizes for the individuals and teams that lose the greatest percentage of weight.

The rest will be used as the city’s matching funds when applying for state and federal grant money for the trails.

Businesses have until April 1 to sign up. The final weigh-in will be July 31, and an awards ceremony will be Aug. 1.

At a glance

What: Seymour’s Greatest Loser Competition, a weight-loss competition to raise money for Seymour’s trails development fund

When: Deadline to sign up is April 1, and competition begins with orientation and weigh-in May 2. A final weigh-in will be July 31 with an awards ceremony Aug. 1

Cost: $5,000 from sponsoring business for a team of 10

Information: To sign up, call the city’s parks department at 812-522-6420 or email bjameson@seymourin.org

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.