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$800K bike path extension moves ahead

Simon Kenton trail will be extended from Urbana to Bellefontaine.

After raising $800,000 the Simon Kenton Pathfinders are planning to extend the bike path from Urbana to Bellefontaine’s Southview Park.

The Simon Kenton Pathfinders, led by Nancy Lokai-Baldwin, raised all the funds for the project through a grant and private donations.

“They made something that most people thought never could happen … happen,” Champaign County Commissioner Bob Corbett said. “The credit all goes to Nancy and her volunteers that have worked for years very diligently to get this done.”

It did not cost Champaign County or Logan County any money, according to Corbett.

“All money that is raised by the SKP goes back into a fund to help with maintenance of the trail and to create the endowment for future development,” Lokai-Baldwin said.

The Pathfinders group applied with the mayor of Bellefontaine for a grant in the fall of 2011. The Ohio Department of Natural Resource awarded the group a $500,000 matching grant in December of 2012.

During the past year the group has been raising the 25 percent match required, $300,000.

Through private donations the group raised the money and is working on the final details of the route so it can put the construction up for bid this winter,Lokai-Baldwin said.

The 16.8-mile extension of the trail will be made of packed crushed limestone.

It will follow an existing rail bed west of and parallel to U.S. 68, to the west edge of West Liberty and continuing north to Southview Park in Bellefontaine.

The people of Logan and Champaign counties are similar, and the counties work together on a variety of projects, so connecting the two was a natural fit, Corbett said.

“It’s a good thing for economic development. It encourages people to find out what Champaign and Logan County are all about,” Corbett said.

One business owner on the path is excited about the extension and believes it will help her business.

“We are really excited here. We expect it to really increase business, ” said Susan Oelker, owner of the Depot Coffeehouse “You basically run into us.”

She said on a nice day in the summer up to 50 percent of her business comes from the bike trail. She believes with the extension that will only help increase traffic to her store.

The Depot was built in 1894 by the Pennsylvania Railroad company and originally was a passenger station. It remained that until 1960 when it became a business and freight office. It was a gun shop from 1989 until 1996.

It was a computer store from 1996 to 2003, before the Simon Kenton Pathfinders bought the building.

The building was sold to the city of Urbana so the group could apply for federal funds to restore it. The Depot is now used as a rest area and restroom facility for trailgoers.

The rest area and coffee shop are open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Sunday 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m.

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