CUMBERLAND — Cumberland now has enough money in hand to double its trail system, town council members say, with construction of the new Buck Creek Trail set to begin as early as 2014.
The town was awarded a $1.2 million federal transportation enhancement grant Oct. 31. The funds will be added to two other grants the town obtained in the past few years to build roughly three miles of trails through the center of the community’s residential area.
“It will effectively double our mileage of our trail system with this trail,” said Mark Reynold, president of the town council.
The curved trail, in the works for five years, will wind its way from the Cumberland Pennsy Trail north through Lions Park and to CR 100N (21st Street). Spurs, or connector trails, will be added, allowing residents of the Glen Oaks Village, Glen Oaks, Cumberland Village and Cumberland Falls neighborhoods to easily get on the trail.
Reynold said next year, right-of-way will be acquired from roughly 20 property owners. Land ranges from municipal to residential to agricultural and business, and public officials have already been talking with landowners about the possibility of the new trail.
Public hearings will also be held next year to get feedback on where the connectors will be.
“Because of this most recent grant, we can build the whole thing. We don’t have to wait,” Reynold said. “I’d like to see construction start in 2014 and completed that year.”
Trail advocates are still trying to connect Cumberland’s Pennsy Trail to Greenfield’s section, but funding for that project remains in limbo. Still, Ellen Kuker, superintendent of the Greenfield Parks Department, said she is pleased Cumberland can extend its system.
“I believe the project will bring additional visibility to the Pennsy Trail, much like the connector projects that have been added here in Greenfield,” she said, referring to two connectors added this fall, at Riley Park and on the west side of Greenfield.
Reynold said he’s eager for more people to have access the trails.
“It builds a sense of community,” he said. “This counteracts some of the forces that draw Cumberland apart – the two counties, three school systems.”
Funding for the project came in several phases. In 2008, Cumberland was awarded a $1 million grant, and in 2010, a $1.1 million grant. The over $3 million in federal grant funding in total puts the project within reach of coming to fruition.
The federal grants require a 20 percent match, but Reynold said the town already has that in hand. The Pennsy Trail, completed in 2010, was entirely funded with federal stimulus dollars. The value of the land donated for that trail – about $500,000 mostly from businesses like Meijer – can count toward a local match for the Buck Creek Trail, Reynold said.
The new trail will run through Councilwoman Anna Pea’s property, and she said she’s excited to use it.
“I’d like to see the Cumberland trail connected to the Greenfield trail,” she added. “I’d love to be able to jump on my bike and ride to Greenfield and eat and shop.”
Pea said trails increase the quality of life for a community, property values and economic development. It’s important for Hancock County to extend its trail system, she said, for competition.
“Hamilton, Johnson, Hendricks, all the donut counties have parks and quality development,” she said. “People want to live around that, and developers want to go to those areas.”