The Bike Michiana Coalition has presented Niles Township a check for $5,000, earmarked for their portion of the IN-MI River Valley Trail. This is the largest single grant given by the BMC, and shows local residents and planning agencies that there is strong community support for the trail. Accepting the check were Jim Ringler, Niles Charter Township Treasurer, and Harry Thibault, Niles Charter Township Park Commissioner. The check was presented by Judy Lee, BMC President, Bill Lee, BMC Member, and Pete Jank, BMC Vice President & Secretary
A brief history of the trail
In November 2008, the Niles Charter Township Park Commission approached the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission requesting their assistance in hosting a meeting of regional trail planners and advocates. At that time, many of the regional municipalities were in various stages of trail development and the goal of the meeting was to coordinate these individual efforts. At the December 2008 meeting, it was decided that a continuous trail from Niles to/from Mishawaka (and eventually beyond) could serve as a trail highway to promote the growth of collateral trail systems and facilitate the growth of a trail-integrated Michiana. Representatives from local municipalities and advocacy groups volunteered to serve on a “Trails Task Force” that started meeting on a monthly basis with the assistance of the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission. From those meetings, a continuous route was determined and many of the needed trail segments came to fruition. Since 2008, we have seen the completion of most of the trail.
Constructed Since 2008:
– Mishawaka’s 6-mile downtown trail loop along the St. Joseph River
– The extension of the East Bank and Northside Blvd. Trails through IUSB
– South Bend’s 2.5 mile Riverside Trail
– St. Joseph County’s Darden Road Trail
– New sidewalks along 933 between the East Race Trail and Roseland Trail
– 2.25 miles of trail through the city of Niles
– 1.1 Miles of Northside Trails through River Park, connecting the South Bend and Mishawaka trail systems
Currently Under Construction:
– 3.3 miles of Niles Township Trails north from the IN/MI State Line
– Mishawaka’s extension of their downtown trails towards Merrifield Park
– Approximately 3.5 miles of connecting off-road trails around the University of Notre Dame, being constructed in coordination with the Douglas Road rerouting project
In Planning Stages:
– Niles Township (Stage II) – Approximately one mile from the Brandywine Creek Nature Park to the south end of the Niles city trail, through both city and township-controlled property. The estimated cost is $711,000. Grants will be sought to pay for $433,000 of the cost. The other $278,000 needs to be raised cooperatively by the city and township of Niles before construction can begin. Summer 2015 is the earliest possible construction date.
– St. Joseph County’s LaSalle Trail from Cleveland Road North to the State Line. Matching funds have been committed to complete the crossing at Cleveland Road, a bridge over Juday Creek and additional trail north to Darden Road. The remaining two miles of trail from Darden Road north to the State Line has been designated a priority and funds are being sought to complete this segment.
– The city of South Bend hopes to connect the south end of the Riverside Trail at Angela Blvd to the East Bank Trail. Currently bikers can use the roadside trail along Northshore Drive to get between these two trails. The abandoned train bridge just north of Angela St. is still considered a trail route possibility.
– The sidewalks along 933 from Angela to the Toll Road entrance are 5’ wide and not suitable for biking. The lands along both sides of 933 are owned by various entities including, among others: Sisters of the Holy Cross, St. Mary’s University, Brother’s of the Holy Cross, Holy Cross College and the University of Notre Dame. The Douglas Rd. rerouting project at Notre Dame will connect approximately 3.5 miles of trails around the Notre Dame campus with the IN-MI River Valley Trail this fall via a trail crossing at 933. We are hopeful that future plans by the university communities will include an approximately one-mile trail connection from the new Douglas Road trail crossing to the head of the East Race Trail located at Angela Blvd. and 933.
– North of Niles is the former Interurban Rail Line that runs to Berrien Springs and Lake Michigan at St. Joseph, Michigan. Some of the land has reverted to adjacent farmers but the corridor is largely intact. There are also utility corridors from Niles north to the Kal-Haven Trail that could be developed as trails. The longstanding dream has always been a continuous, dedicated trail from Michiana to Lake Michigan. We will continue to work in that direction.
– West of Niles, the city of Buchanan has been steadily growing their urban landscape and their trail system along the McCoy Creek. They are run by a very organized, dedicated group of advocates and we would love to eventually connect our individual trail systems. Once a prospective route is identified, I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to coordinate growth in this direction.
– The city of Mishawaka continues to grow east and has shown that trails are a priority for their community. After Merrifield Park, additional trails to Elkhart and the Pumpkinvine Trail are not out of the question.
Thanks to Harry Thibault for authoring the history portion of this post.