The proposed multi-use path that will hug the north bank of the St. Joseph River between IUSB and Logan Street was discussed in detail at a planning meeting on October 27. Residents of the River Park neighborhood and trail enthusiasts met with city officials and the planning consultant to discuss four alternatives, three of which were new since the last planning meeting.
As with any project, everyone sees good and bad in each of the alternatives, and opinions were voiced freely. There seemed to be, however, unanimous agreement among the 41 attendees that the trail would be a great asset to the neighborhood. It will link up with the Riverwalk in Mishawaka, and the East Race in South Bend. It is part of the IN-MI River Valley Trail system which will someday extend to Niles, Mich. and beyond.
Two of the alternatives call for closing a small portion of Northside Blvd. This closure will serve two purposes: 1) eliminate thru traffic on the street, which travels well above the speed limit, and 2) allow a safe place for the trail to switch from the south side of the street to the north. Another alternative would make a short portion of the street one-way, thus reducing traffic, and having a traffic calming effect.
All alternatives will preserve the attractive and historic stone wall built by the WPA during the depression. Some mature trees will need to be removed; final plans will call for planting two new trees to replace each one cut down. The path is expected to be 8 foot wide concrete and to have a grass buffer between the path and the roadway. The city will not be purchasing any property or easements, as all the property is already owned by South Bend.
Planners rated the four alternatives with a ‘rating matrix’. The matrix graded each alternative on several factors including traffic calming, safety, historic preservation, property values, trees removed, and others. By a wide margin, the alternative receiving the highest overall grade was the plan that would close Northside in two places: at Logan and slightly south of Pleasant Avenue, just north of the stone wall.
All attendees were asked to complete a survey of their opinions. Planners will take the surveys and the knowledge gained back to their offices, come up with a final plan, and conduct a final public hearing within the next month or so. Funding arrangements have already been made, and construction is expected to begin in 2011.