It has been my experience that many successful things begin with the right people, sufficiently motivated, to create a productive meeting. I have been fortunate to have been in many such meetings over the years and I found myself invited several years ago to attend what held the potential for being a solutions-oriented meeting.
I had been recently appointed by Judge Bender as a Commissioner on the Fayette County Park District board and I had the privilege of meeting with Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean, Fayette County Engineer Steve Luebbe, Washington Court House City Manager Joe Denen, and Fayette County Park Commissioners David Kiger and Bob Pitakos.
The topic was trails.
There was general disappointment that the City of Washington Court House had not prevailed in its legal action that would have allowed it to proceed with a trail connecting Eyman Park with the Fayette County YMCA along the abandoned Grand Trunk Western rail corridor. Adding to the disappointment was the fact that the City of Washington Court House had already secured $500,000 in funding for the project through a competitive Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) “Clean Ohio” grant program.
As with many competitive grants, the funds were earmarked for a specific approach and not allowed to be repurposed into a modified approach, nor could the portions of the project that were not blocked be undertaken as the smaller project would have to be rescored and fail on a priority basis.
Recognizing that the abandoned Grand Trunk Western corridor was not available, the group set about finding another approach to get trail development on track. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) administers a “rails to trails” program called Transportation Alternative Program (TAP). We set about identifying resources and strategies that would make an attractive and competitive application. We quickly came to realize that there were no eligible rail corridors available extending outward from the City of Washington Court House.
Additionally, as much as the Park Districts in Clinton and Pickaway had emerging trail programs, Greene County had a mature trails network interconnected with 300-plus miles of bike trails. We decided on building from the Greene/Fayette County line (the terminus of Greene County’s trails) toward Washington Court House.
We submitted the project and were invited to submit a formal application. That was in 2019. Since that time, we have had engineering and environmental studies performed. Ohio EPA had concerns over brown bats in the tunnel under I-71 causing a substantial delay. We were selected for funding in Fiscal 2023 and began construction early this year. A local contractor, Fillmore Construction LLC, from Leesburg bid the project at $1,267,747.50. Fayette County Park District (FCPD) will contribute 5% of the project construction expense. In addition, we have paid 100% of the engineering and environmental expenses.
The gravel bed and first course of pavement is down. Once the weather cooperates the project will be completed (absent the lighting in the tunnel under I-71 which has to wait until the bats go dormant in fall).
The approximately 3.1 miles of trail has its eastern terminus in the Village of Octa.
FCPD wishes to thank and acknowledge the financial support of the Fayette County Commissioners, the City of Washington Court House, and Fayette Travel and Tourism. We also wish to thank the Fayette County Engineer’s Office for their valuable in-kind support, Mayor of Octa Amanda Wickline for her patience with this project, and Greene County Parks Director Jon Dobney for his cooperation and assistance with construction.
It is a step towards spanning Fayette County from Greene County to Ross County. We are also supporting other projects and I hope to be able to share more details in the next “Just Parking.”
Dan Stahl is the director of the Fayette County Park District.