Until a couple of weeks ago, walkers and runners had to cross the entrance to the Freeman Field Sports Complex to reach the other side of the Grassy Fork Trail.
When traffic was going in and out of the Seymour facility, that posed a safety issue.
But now that a pedestrian bridge has been installed over the Grassy Fork ditch, those using the trail can avoid the traffic and focus on exercising.
“The big deal about the bridge is you can now do a 5K where you don’t have to cross the entrance to Freeman Field, because when you do that, it’s dangerous. You’ve got to shut down the access, and what if an ambulance needs to get in?” said Brent Jameson, Seymour Parks and Recreation Department director.
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“There are all sorts of things that can go wrong. So that really completes the trails out there,” he said. “Then if you want to go run or go for a walk, we want you to be able to have some wooded section and some low-impact grass trails.”
On Sept. 24, Lawyer Excavation of Seymour used a crane to place the 32-foot-long metal structure over the ditch. The company also had laid the foundation on which the Grassy Fork Covered Bridge sits.
This past summer, K&K Industries of Montgomery constructed the wooden framing of the bridge and delivered it to a parking lot behind Seymour High School.
Initially, it was announced that the project would cost $13,000. But Jameson said they underestimated the cost of the foundation, so the total wound up being $20,000. Since Seymour Community School Corp. uses the sports complex, it agreed to pay $6,500. The rest was paid for by the parks and recreation department.
Darin Johnson spent about a month-and-a-half putting on the siding, flooring and roofing and building up the interior. He teaches construction engineering technology and architectural engineering and design at C4 Columbus Area Career Connection and also has a daughter who ran cross-country at Seymour High School.
This was a volunteer project for Johnson.
“Any time we’ve worked with Darin, he just does exactly what he says he’s going to do,” Jameson said. “It’s just so neat to have somebody to work with that cares so much. He doesn’t make a dime off this, but he volunteers his time to go do it. Obviously, his daughter, Zoey, was a really good runner. He has a passion for running and cross-country, and he’s the one to thank for really driving this.”
Johnson and the high school cross-country coaches, Randy Fife and Spencer Sunbury, worked with Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman in fall 2014 to map out the 3½-mile Grassy Fork Trail, which goes around the Freeman Field Sports Complex and includes a wooded area.
“(Luedeman) wanted the walking trail to have a little bit of character,” Fife said. “He didn’t just want a straight path down, a straight path back, so we incorporated around the tree line, and there’s a little bit of shade back there. Then there’s a wooded section that’s a quarter-mile wooded loop that’s kind of neat. If you like nature, you get to walk in the woods.”
City engineer Nathan Frey came up with several designs for the bridge. Since it goes over a ditch, he had to follow Department of Natural Resources rules.
Several ideas came in way over budget, Jameson said, so Johnson talked with K&K Industries and received a good quote.
“There were so many different obstacles, and Darin, I think, really helped us stay on track and keep pushing forward, and getting it done was pretty rewarding,” Jameson said.
Both Fife and Sunbury said it was exciting to see the bridge in place.
“Visually, we really like it,” Fife said. “We didn’t anticipate a covered bridge initially. We just thought a crossing, but we ended up with a covered bridge, and it’s kind of cool looking. It’s just going to be cool to be able to tie together the east side and the west side and give the kids more places to run.”
Sunbury said the bridge makes a positive change to the running and walking course.
“Darin has done such an awesome job getting this going and building it and seeing everything through,” he said. “It makes the course that much more legitimate, and the trails are more accessible to the public. I just feel like it makes it so much better out here having this across. It’s more accessible for the runners, but it adds a little aesthetics, too.”
The coaches also were glad the bridge was put in place before Seymour hosted the Hoosier Hills Conference meet this past weekend. The teams were able to run through the bridge during practice a few days before the meet.
The boys team wound up winning its first conference title Saturday, while the girls placed second.
“I joked with coach Fife, I sent him a text, I said, ‘Hey, the bridge must be good luck for you,'” Jameson said. “I told him he had Darin to thank because that bridge must have been good luck.”
The middle school cross-country teams will benefit from the trail, too. Fife said the Seymour-based South Central Indiana Running Club will host 3K, 4K and 5K races at the facility.
“It just gives us some flexibility in the courses that we set up,” he said.
The Grassy Fork Trail also was designed to fit into the walking, running and biking trails that are being proposed throughout the city. A duathlon recently was conducted at the Freeman Field Sports Complex to benefit that project.
“Everything we did out here, we kept the community in mind,” Sunbury said. “It wasn’t just what does cross-country need and what do we want out here. It’s how can the community use it, so we tried to think along those lines the whole time. I think the community will really enjoy coming out here.”
While the bridge connects and completes the trails, Jameson said amenities, such as benches, will be added in the future, and parking will be addressed at the park.
Donations to the Seymour Parks and Recreation Department’s pedestrian trails program are being accepted.
Checks and money may be mailed to or dropped off at Seymour City Hall, 309 N. Chestnut St., Seymour, IN 47274.
Checks should be made out to Seymour Parks and Recreation Department.
All donations are tax-deductible.
Donations should indicate the money is for trails development.