Can it be? City ready to buy land for pathway

Saturday, December 8, 2007

A single, tiny hurdle is all that stands in the way of Greencastle finally being able to purchase land for the Albin Pond leg of People Pathways.

At least that was the word from Greencastle Parks and Recreation Director Rod Weinschenk when he spoke to members of the park board this week.

It's been nearly a decade since the Indiana Department of Transportation granted Greencastle the money for the project and since that time, they ordered the city to have the land appraised not once, but twice. This, combined with changes in state government and a lot of red tape along the way, has delayed the project again and again, leading to frustration by city officials.

Adding to the delay was the fact that a portion of the land in the trail's path appeared to have contaminated soil. A few months ago, the city had the land tested and found the contamination, which was determined to be caused by old cars that sat on the property for years, was minimal. The city has since been cleared to move ahead with the trail.

Weinschenk told the park board Wednesday night that he hopes to be ready to approach land owners along the trail's path in order to purchase property at the end of three weeks. The news garnered a round of applause from the park board.

The Albin Pond leg is divided into two segments. The first one begins near Tzouanakis Intermediate and runs east along Albin Pond Road to Toddson Drive. From there it cuts south to Deer Meadow School and stops.

The second leg begins at the school and runs south to connect with Greencastle High School. The city has secured a second grant, called Safe Routes to School, for this second portion of the Albin Pond leg.

Weinschenk told the park board he hopes the two portions will be completed at nearly the same time.

In other Pathways news, Weinschenk said the city has been approved to hire an engineer to design the Campus Link portion, which is projected to run from near the DePauw campus to Veteran's Memorial Highway. From there the path will run east along the south side of the highway to connect with the current path near Wal-Mart.

The city jumped the gun more than a year ago when they hired a local engineer to begin designing the Campus Link portion of the project. The city was since ordered by the state to release that engineer and open it up to bidders.

Weinschenk said Wednesday night that the city has been cleared to do that now. The city plans to purchase land for the Campus Link in 2010, to be followed by construction in 2011-12, Weinschenk said.

Weinschenk also said that DePauw intends to pay for the construction of its own portion of the pathway and may in fact extend it to the Nature Park.

In other business, the park board:

* Learned that there will be two dog waste receptacles placed in the city to encourage dog owners to properly dispose of droppings, rather than leave them on sidewalks and in people's yards. Weinschenk said one will be placed in the boulevards area and the other either at Mapleberry Park or Robe-Ann Park.

* Learned that a large hole, measuring 8 feet deep, has been dug in the vicinity of Mapleberry Park, located near Mama Nunz and J&M Feeds, due to a sizeable amount of petroleum contamination in the ground. It is believed that an underground tank was leaching petroleum into the ground there for many years. Weinschenk said the clay soil has turned green as a result of the contamination. The city was given a Brownfield grant to clean up the site.

* Learned that the former Clearwater's property on the southwest corner of Robe-Ann Park, now owned by the city, has tested with minimal amounts of petroleum contamination from underground storage tanks there. Weinschenk said the levels would be high in a residential area, but since the park intends to plant grass over the site and use it for recreation, it falls below problematic levels. The parks department intends to remove old gravel at the site, install a couple of picnic tables and plant evergreen trees on the property to make it a part of the park.

* Agreed to purchase new signs for the city parks. The wood-carved signs will feature a single oak tree with the depiction of recreational activities beneath the overhanging branches. Different scenes will be depicted for each of the different parks, to indicate the activities that are found at those locations. The signs, done by a local artist, will cost about $900, Weinschenk said.

* Learned that the first part of paving the parking lots and installing a walking path at Big Walnut Community Park have been completed with the remaining portion to be completed in the spring. The city now owns the southernmost portion of Big Walnut Sports Park and intends to install a playground and disc golf course next year, through a Land and Water Conservation Grant.

The park board meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month, at city hall.

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