Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
By Shelley Grieshop
Bike path scheduled for 2014 makeover
Celina, Coldwater pledge to do in-kind work to stretch state funding
  CELINA - Bicyclists, walkers and others continue to carefully navigate the deteriorating pavement and overgrown brush along the Celina-Coldwater bike path while officials finalize plans to spruce it up.
"There's all those branches in the pathway. You have to duck down or go around them," Celina resident Elaina Thompson said Monday as she pushed her toddler in a stroller along the Mercer County-owned path.
The path is slated for paving and restoration next fall, according to county community development director Jared Ebbing, whose office helped seek funding for the project.
"We don't want to be paving during the busy summer months," he added.
The 4.7-mile mostly rural path is riddled with cracks, dips and large holes - the majority made by burrowing animals. Bushes in some areas extend nearly a third of the way across the trail.
The county owns the bike path and maintains it as the budget allows.
The planned $240,000 paving project is about $30,000 short on funds so officials from Coldwater and Celina - the path's anchors - have volunteered to perform in-kind work, Ebbing said. Crews from both municipalities this fall or early next year will split the route and perform "prep work," he said.
"The village ... plans to assist the project by making spot repairs to the groundhog holes, potholes, roots that are causing problems, and trimming trees and brush," Coldwater Village Manager Eric Thomas said. "We will also assist with berm work after the paving is complete, if necessary."
Thomas said he'll work with the city of Celina on a plan that satisfies both parties. The neighboring municipalities have completed similar deals in the past.
   "We try to get an equal split of the work. Sometimes we horse trade who will do what, based on available equipment, manpower and materials," he explained.
The village of Coldwater also is working on a plan to create a parking area at the north end of Seventh Street, which connects to the bike path via a sidewalk. However, due to other priorities and the high price of asphalt the project has been put on the back burner, Thomas said. 
The majority of the paving project will be financed with a maximum $200,000 grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation. The state agency agreed to pay 80 percent of the cost through the Transportation Alternatives Program.
The county also snagged an $11,762 Nature Works Program grant but an application for a $50,000 Ohio Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trails grant was rejected by the state.
"Money is tight," Ebbing admitted, adding the county is open to any donations toward the project.
The bike path was built in 1985 as a "rail trail" along an easement of the Penn Central Railroad track. The venture was paid for with donations from Celina and Coldwater and the former Huffy Bicycle Foundation. Ownership eventually was turned over to the county.
Angie Gehle of rural Celina ran 3.1-miles on the route Monday afternoon and finished at the Schunck Road intersection. She agreed the scenic trail needs some work.
"The potholes I can see when I'm running but I worry that people out here at night might not," she said.
Despite the rough conditions, Gehle said she feels more secure running on the bike path than anywhere else.
"This is much safer," she said, adding she likes the atmosphere and uses the path three or four times each week.
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Print edition only stories for this date
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