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Bike trail extension could begin in spring

Organizers say 16-mile stretch will cost about $800,000.

Members of the Simon Kenton Pathfinders are finalizing agreements that should make it possible to begin an $800,000 bike path extension this spring that would connect Urbana to Bellefontaine.

The bike path, constructed using packed crushed limestone, would begin near Urbana’s northern corporation limit at Grimes Field and stretch north until it connects at Bellefontaine. Much of the existing path is asphalt, but the limestone will be cheaper and easier to maintain, said Nancy Lokai-Baldwin, president of the Simon Kenton Pathfinders. Completing the project using asphalt could have costs as much as $1 million, she said.

The group raises money and helps maintain the trail, which is used by as many as 100,000 riders annually, according to estimates from the organization.

In all, the newest section of bike path would stretch almost 16 miles and will be 10 feet wide.

“This will be the most we’ve tried to do at once,” Lokai-Baldwin said.

The extension was made possible after the organization applied for and received a $500,000 grant through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Clean Trail Fund. The local match is $300,000, and so far, the group has raised about $145,000 through a variety of fundraisers. along with private and corporate donations.

The group is now working with elected officials in Champaign and Logan counties, as well as the West Central Ohio Port Authority to finalize lease agreements to allow the project to move forward.

The ODNR grant was approved earlier this year and is being reviewed in Bellefontaine, said Carmen Scott, another member of the Pathfinders. The design and engineering phases of the project can begin once it is approved in Bellefontaine. Bids for the project could go out as early as May, he said.

The organization has been working on the bike trail project overall as far back as 1997, Scott said. In Champaign County, the trail now stretches from County Line Road as far north as Urbana’s corporation limits. Once complete, it would head north through West Liberty to Bellefontaine, where it will connect at Southview Park along West Lake Avenue. Headed south, the trail connects in Springfield, Yellow Springs and Xenia and travels as far south as Cincinnati, Scott said.

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