Shirley gets land donation for new town trail

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SHIRLEY — The town recently received a donation of a parcel of land that will be crucial to its plan for a walking trail.

Pride Investment Partners, which owns Leo’s Market and Eatery, has donated the space at the northeast corner of Main and South Railroad streets, east of the Marathon station. The property, measuring 1,780 feet by 102 feet, is 0.81 of an acre and formerly was owned by GasAmerica Services.

Clerk-Treasurer Teresa Hester said plans for the new Shirley trail go through the narrow parcel; the trail, planned to be approximately a mile long, will connect the town’s park with its downtown area and the historic Jane Ross Reeves Octagon House.

The asphalt trail will be the first phase of the project, Hester said, but she added that she would like to see parking spots added so that the town could host a small farmer’s market. Trees might also be planted on the parcel.

Eventually, Shirley officials hope to see fitness stations added to the trail along with signs marking Shirley’s historically significant locations. They also want to upgrade town athletic facilities.

Hester said the town council is still finalizing a contract with a construction firm to begin the trail work. The town received two bids on the project, one with a base bid coming to about $1.58 million and the other to about $1.77 million.

The town is receiving funding from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs’ Stellar Communities project to work on the trail. The project is part of the Health and Heritage Region, a collaboration among Greenfield, Fortville and Hancock County that was chosen by Stellar Communities to receive grants funding community improvement projects. Depot Street Park in Greenfield, which is currently under construction, is also a Stellar Communities project.

The Stellar region set aside $1.6 million of its funding for the Shirley trail project; anything above that amount would be paid for locally.

Stephanie White-Longworth, co-owner of Pride Investment Partners and a principal with GasAmerica before her family sold it to Marathon Petroleum in 2012, said the family business has long owned the property but it was rarely used except for Shirley town events. When White-Longworth saw the preliminary plans for a new trail, she realized donating the parcel might be helpful.

“We are big supporters of the Shirley trail project,” White-Longworth said.