Monday, August 9th, 2021
Construction has begun on $1.2M Marion bike path
By Tom Millhouse
Children bicycle and run in an area that will become the Marion Township Greenwa. . .
MARIA STEIN - Several years of planning and fundraising will soon bear fruit as the construction of the $1.175 million Marion Township Greenway bike path kicked off last week.
The contract for the project has been awarded to Tom's Construction of St. Henry. Although the completion could be delayed by bad weather, it is expected to be finished by late October, said Marion Township trustee Bob Unrast.
The 2.1-mile asphalt path for bicyclists and walkers will start at Marion Township Park and continue along property donated by the Sisters of the Precious Blood and the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein into the Marion Community Industrial Park and end at State Route 716.
Bike path committee member Nick Moeller said discussions on the project began in 2016, but the idea goes back even further.
"I think interest in a bike path has been here for decades," he said, noting he came across a button from the 1970s proclaiming support for a Marion Township bike path.
"We started reaching out to see if we could make this project happen," Moeller said. "Interest in the project led to the formation of a bike path committee."
"Our goal as a committee is to try to connect our community to make it safe and give the people something to enjoy," said committee member Ben Moeller. "I think there are a lot of people who are anxious to allow their kids to get from one part of the community to another without having to get on the road," he said.
The committee, which also includes Brad Knapke, Randy Liette, Dave Rengers, Marianne Bruns, Sandi Holdheide, Dani Otte and Darrin Poeppelman, brought the project to the attention of Marion Township trustees, who agreed to pursue funding. Unrast said Ron Puthoff of Chickasaw offered tips on seeking state money for the project.
Unrast said the township was awarded an $869,500 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission through the Clean Ohio Fund Green Space Conservation Program. The local match for the project is $305,500.
Unrast said the township purchased 14 acres in the industrial park from the Marion Community Land Development Organization for $248,000 to be used as land for the path. Trustees also received the donation of 5.5 acres of land from the Spiritual Center of Maria Stein and 2.6 acres from the Sisters of the Precious Blood for the bike path and green space conservation area.
The bike path is part of the Marion Township Greenway Project, which is designed to conserve green space and wildlife habitat and provide educational opportunities for students.
Parking for bike path users will be provided on Booster Drive in the industrial park. Existing parking also is available at the Marion Community Park on St. Johns Road in Maria Stein.
The committee has been busy raising money to provide the matching local funds. In addition to obtaining private donations through the Marion Community's website at www.marioncommunities.com, the committee will host a craft beer, wine and food festival on Sept. 11. The Moellers reported this week that nearly all of the 300 tickets for the event have been sold.
The committee is nearing its goal of raising $305,500 for the project.
"We're real close to our goal, we're under $18,000,' said Nick Moeller.
The fundraising efforts also have been undertaken by younger local residents. The Moellers said children in the Chapel Hill subdivision of Maria Stein have raised several hundred dollars with their lemonade stand in recent years.
Other fundraisers have included a Party in the Park for three years and a Greenway Founders' Brick Club drive that is underway on the website. Donations of $500 will be recognized with an engraved brick on the bike path and donations of more than $2,500 will be recognized on a plaque.
Township officials praised the fundraising efforts of the committee.
"They have done a wonderful job," said Bonnie Garrison, township fiscal officer.
Unrast and the Moellers, who are cousins, said they hope to extend the bike path to Chickasaw in the future, but no time frame has been set for a second phase.
"It's hard to put a timetable (on the second phase)," Ben Moeller said. "Our feeling is once this is completed and people see it, they will be anxious to see it grow."