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Monday, March 31st, 2008

Bike path extension and nature sanctuary planned

By Nancy Allen

Josh Pruitt and Brandi Huber walk their dog, Buffy, on the Franklin Township bik. . .

Franklin Township trustees plan to break ground this spring on the next phase of their bicycle path and a new 80-acre nature sanctuary - part of an ongoing plan to create natural areas for the public.
Trustees are expected to open bids for the bike path extension during their April 10 meeting, said local consultant Ron Puthoff. The $500,000 project is being paid for with grants, private contributions and a small amount of trustee matching funds. Construction could start in the next month or so, he said.
"The significance of this next phase is it will connect all these areas together where we will have a total of 6 miles of paved bicycle path," Puthoff said. "It will take you to Windy Point Road to the state park, through Zuma Park, the Franklin Township Nature Park, another 10 acres of natural area near Harrison Road and about 7 acres of the Strassburg Park Nature Area."
The newest portion of the bike path will start at the 45-acre Franklin Township Nature Park located near the intersection of Karafit and Cottonwood roads. From there it will run east through a field to Kittle Road, continue south along Kittle Road, then cross state Route 219 and end at Strassburg Park located at the intersection of state Route 219 and Club Island Road.
The existing bike path has been built in several sections starting in 2003. It starts at Zuma Park, just north of the Catholic church, and travels to state route 219 up to the old Franklin Elementary School. It then turns north and follows state Route 219 and down Windy Point Road into the state park area. Where state Route 219 meets Windy Point Road, there is another spur of the bike path that turns east along state Route 219 to Karafit Road and to the Franklin Township Nature Park where the next phase will start this spring.
Also this spring, trustees plan to begin creating wetlands and planting native grasses on parts of an 80-acre area that will be known as the Franklin Township Nature Sanctuary.
Trustees bought the land for the sanctuary in two parcels - the first 30 acres in 2006 and the second 50 acres last year - using grants, private contributions and some township matching funds.
The combined 80-acre area has forested portions with different types of native trees, prairie grass and natural wetlands, Puthoff said. Part of the land has been farmed, but has always been naturally wet. Trustees plan to create 2 to 3 acres more wetlands and plant more trees on the area in the future, he added. A grass walkway and benches for people to sit and observe the area and its wildlife also will be added.
Puthoff said trustees soon will apply for a $30,000 Ohio Department of Natural Resources grant to build a boat dock at the Club Island Road channel on Grand Lake. The grant deadline is May 1, and trustees would not need any matching funds.
The dock would accommodate about five boats and construction could begin next spring if the grant is approved. The boat dock would provide lake access to the new nature sanctuary.
"It (boat dock) would provide a tie-off area since we purchased 80 acres of natural area just across the way," Puthoff said. "People could come off the lake, dock their boat and then walk across the road a couple hundred feet to the Franklin Township Nature Sanctuary," he said.
The latest projects are part of a long list of work the township has undertaken in recent years.
About nine years ago Puthoff, at the direction of trustees, created a community land use plan. Part of the plan included a survey given to residents who expressed a great desire to preserve and create public natural areas to keep them safe from development. They also wanted pedestrian and bicycle access around the south side of Grand Lake to take people to these natural areas.
To date, Franklin Township trustees have secured state and federal grants totaling $3 million, private contributions totaling $500,000 and provided township moneys totaling $150,000. They also have purchased roughly 200 acres of land to put into greenspace projects.
Franklin Township trustees will open bids for the bike path extension during their April 10 meeting at the township building, 6805 state Route 219. They plan to award the bid during their April 16 meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the township house.
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