FORTVILLE — By 2020, Mt. Vernon school students should have a safer way to walk to school.
Fortville town officials recently revealed a route and detailed plans for a proposed trail system leading from downtown Fortville to the Mt. Vernon School Corp. campus.
The trail, which will measure 2 miles and will have room for both bikers and runners, will begin at Maple and Garden streets, running about a half mile down Maple Street and continuing south along County Road 200W for one and a half miles before ending just north of State Road 234.
The path, which will be the first established trail in Fortville, will run along the west side of the roadway and will feature a crosswalk over Garden Street to connect to an existing sidewalk system on the north end and another across County Road 200W to connect the trail to Mt. Vernon Middle School.
Town officials say the project — an estimated $4.8 million including engineering and construction costs — will help make the area more pedestrian friendly, a feature that draws development and encourages residents to stay active.
If federal funding remains available, up to 80 percent of the cost could be covered through federal grants and programs, leaving the town to cover roughly $950,000 of the project, said town manager Joe Renner.
So far, the town has been awarded roughly $520,000 for the project, Renner said. The town has contributed roughly $120,000, which covered the engineering phase of the development.
If plans remain on schedule, construction should begin sometime next year and will wrap up by May 2020, he said.
All crosswalks will have safety markings, and an extensive lighting system will illuminate the trail at night, according to plans.
Tony May, a member of the Mt. Vernon School Board, said the trail will present a way for students to walk to and from school.
Once construction on the trail is wrapping up, school officials likely will survey students to gain a sense of how many plan to use the trail as their primary means of transportation, keeping in mind that most will want to ride the bus when the weather turns cold, May said.
Lenzy Hendrix, a member of the Fortville Town Council, said he’s eager to see the development of a trails system throughout town, but he has some reservations about the current proposal.
Hendrix said some parents might hesitate to send their young children along the path in the mornings or after school, he said.
Ensuring conditions along the trail remain safe will require close collaboration with the local police, he said.
Hendrix suggested that the town should eventually look into establishing a path between downtown Fortville and McCordsville, a community that’s also making a concerted effort to develop a trails system.