County seeks state funds for bike trail

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Union County is asking for help to create a multi-use trail from Plain City to Woodstock.
The Union County Commissioners have signed a letter of support asking for funding through the Ohio State Capital Budget.
The county is asking for about $975,000 to purchase of 153 acres of former railroad bed to construct a 13.5-mile multi-use trail.
The trail would run the width of Union County, beginning on Cemetery Pike in Plain City, Madison County, and ending in Woodstock, Champaign County. The new trail would actually be an extension of the Heritage Trail, a 7-mile trail stretching between Hilliard and Cemetery Pike in Plain City.
“Extending the Heritage Trail would not only safely connect the dynamic and bustling Columbus metropolitan area to smaller communities to the west, but it would also highlight the beautiful rural and agricultural areas of southern Union County and northeastern Champaign County,” according to the letter, addressed to Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “The proposed segment would create a unique opportunity for trail users to experience the many assets of the Big Darby Plains, a prairie ecosystem that features access to the Big Darby Creek, numerous nature preserves and parks, historic covered bridges, century farms, early settler cemeteries and other points of interest.”
Union County Commissioner Chris Schmenk said the county has met with the land owner. Officials believe they can purchase the land for $975,000.
“That is kind of what we think would be the value and price of that land, based on other, comparable sales,” Schmenk said, adding that an appraiser will be walking the trail soon.
She said that if the county receives the grant, they will begin negotiations in earnest with the property owner. She said that could take a year. Actual trail construction could take longer, she said.
The county will apply for other grants to help with the actual construction, Schmenk said, noting that she does not have a cost estimate for the actual construction.
“We would be looking for a lot of other grants,” Schmenk said. “That would allow us to do this project a lot faster than if we have to rely only on local dollars.”
Schmenk said she is optimistic both that the project will receive funding and that the landowner will sell.
Officials said the trail project is in line with community priorities.
“Bicycling experts and trail enthusiasts have long desired the extension of the Heritage Trail,” according to the letter. “This important strategic initiative is consistent with our county’s goals of advancing a safe, convenient and truly connected regional trail system.”
Officials have said this project has been a priority for years. The connection was identified as a future trail segment in the Union County Trail and Greenway Master Plan, completed in 2014 and has received support from a variety of other entities including the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and Columbus MetroParks.
The trail would be named after Kurtis A. Tunnell, a long-time attorney and political advisor, as well as a bicycling enthusiast. Tunnell was killed in August after a vehicle hit him while he was cycling on Scioto Darby Road in Hilliard.
County officials said Tunnell was “a regular user of the Heritage Trail.”
“It is our honor to celebrate his legacy with this project,” according to the letter.
Schmenk said Tunnell, who helped found the law firm she works for, would often ride in Union County.
The funding request is being submitted as part of the state’s capital budget. The state’s capital budget provides appropriations for the repair, reconstruction and construction of capital assets of state agencies, colleges, universities and school districts.
According to the Ohio Office of Budget and Management, “in some years, funds may also be allocated for community projects of local or regional interest.”



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