By Sean Rice
Celina is involved in an aggressive effort to gain millions in state and federal grant dollars for various proposed projects the city budget cannot afford.
Applications are being submitted this year seeking approximately $1.4 million to extend the Celina-Coldwater bike path north to an area proposed for a new park on Livingston Street.
The proposed extension of the blacktop path is the start of a multi-year plan to create a trail system in the city, connecting the parks, county fairground and lakefront. Competitive grants are available from several state programs aimed at creating recreational paths.
"What we want to do is make a loop around the city," Kent Bryan, development consultant for Celina, explained in an interview Friday.
Plans show the current bike path at Schunck Road connecting to a new path across the street heading north on the abandoned railroad right-of-way owned by the city. The path would continue north until Livingston Street. A side path would branch off at Washington Street and continue east toward the lighthouse, ending at a proposed parking lot off Main Street. Bryan said this would provide a connection point to the planned West Bank Road walkway, formerly known as the boardwalk, and much needed municipal parking.
Grants also have been submitted to two agencies seeking funds to purchase bare land by Livingston Street between Mill and Brandon streets for an inner city park. The land currently is owned by Celina Group Insurance, and the city is having it appraised.
Each grant sought for trails and a park requires local matching dollars ranging from 20 to 50 percent of the applied amount. If all grants applied for are awarded nearly all the city's local match would be paid, because awarded money from one grant could be used as matching money for another grant, Bryan said. Otherwise, matching money could be in-kind labor or engineering costs provided by the city or other related projects. Private donations also would be sought for the Livingston Street park, he said.
There also is an application out to create a nature trail in the 15 acres of woods at the south end of Westview Park. The acreage was donated to the city last year by The Daily Standard publisher Frank Snyder.
If a grant is awarded without matching funds secured, it would be up to Celina City Council to find money or reject the grant award.
"Those grants are your's and my state and federal tax dollars that we paid ... if we don't ask for them, somebody else will get them," Bryan said. "We have to keep being aggressive."
In coming years funds will be sought to extend the bike path north on the abandoned rail line to Touvelle Street, then along side of the road to the intersection of Summit Street. From there a spur could head west to Westview Park and south through the woods to the Mercer County Fairgrounds. Another spur would go directly east on Summit Street to Meyer Road connecting to a path on Grand Lake Road, which is part of a 2007 project to rebuild the street using an approved $900,000 grant.
Along with the bike path extension, applications are going out for money for: rehabilitating the water plant, Grand Lake shoreline protection, the West Bank Road walkway project, replacing the two Lake Shore Drive bridges, playground equipment, boat docks, redeveloping the former Mersman site and more than $4 million in street projects.
In all, $16.8 million is being sought from state and federal grants this year for projects in and around the city, according to Bryan.