DARKE COUNTY — The vision of having a paved bike trail stretching from one end of Darke County to the other has gone far past the point of fantasy and is now much closer to reality.
Construction of the Tecumseh Trail, which started its Darke County journey in Bradford, has reached the halfway point, with a critical phase set to begin soon as the trail now sits at the outskirts of the City of Greenville.
“This has been 14 years in the making,” said Darke County Parks Director Roger Van Frank.
The ultimate goal for Van Frank, Darke County Parks Administrative Assistant Deb Shiverdecker, and the Friends of the Darke County Parks’ Phoenix Committee, is a complete bike/walking trail, either sharing existing roadways or on 10-foot-wide paved asphalt, which extends east-to-west across the entire county, and further, interconnects with other trails in Ohio and even into Indiana.
When finished, the trail will be approximately 18 miles in length, with nine miles already done. With the project at the halfway point, Shiverdecker says work on Tecumseh Trail has progressed quickly.
“It’s done better than we expected [it to],” she said. “We never thought we’d be getting to Greenville already.”
From the current end of the trail at the intersection of Ohio Route 571, the trails’ proponents will begin the next phase of the project, in which the bike trail will cross Ohio 571 and pick up again at the industrial park on the southeast side of Greenville, then run parallel with Lansdowne Drive. The trail will then go across the old city landfill to U.S. Route 127.
Construction on the path from Ohio 571 to U.S. 127 is expected to be completed in October.
After that, the trail will go under U.S. 127 to Sebring-Warner Road, continue along Sater Street, then head north, presumably along Ohio Street, although many details are still to be worked out in cooperation with the city.
If all goes as planned, the trail will eventually hook up with the Alice Bish Trail which runs along Greenville Creek and then into Greenville’s City Park. The path will share the road with Wilson Drive partway through the park, go through Prairie Ridge Meadow, then take a “sweeping turn to the northwest,” after crossing North Broadway, according to Van Frank.
After exiting Greenville, the trail will follow old rail corridors to reach Union City, which already possesses a paved trail leading into the Cardinal Greenways Trail in Indiana.
To facilitate Tecumseh Trail’s construction, the Phoenix Committee is receiving grants from the Clean Ohio Trail Fund through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) as well as contributions from a number of commercial and individual donors.
Thus far, the project has received seven different grants — six grants for construction, and one to acquire a rail corridor from Dayton Power and Light and the county — totaling about $250,000 per year.
The paved pathway is for any non-motorized use — biking, hiking, walking, running — although disabled persons may use motorized wheelchairs or other licensed modes of handicapped transport.
Aside from the obvious health benefits it offers to individuals, the Tecumseh Trail is enriching the communities it touches in other ways.
For example, the trail will run adjacent to Person Centered Services, previously known as Wayne Industries, which assists developmentally disabled people with living skills and career development.
“This is what’s great with Wayne Industries,” said Van Frank. “We’re building the trail so that it assists them with their [Americans with Disabilities Act] access back to their ball field. So they’ll be able to take wheelchairs and go back and sit right behind the ball diamond.”
Shiverdecker pointed out other benefits, saying that one business in Gettysburg has reported an upswing in sales to out-of-town bicyclists and hikers.
“We have had a lot of positive feedback. The people who have it really enjoy it,” she said. “A lot of these cities that are supporting these trail systems. They’re using it as an economic development.”
“It’s for the benefit of the county. We are going to have tourism dollars coming in. There’s no question — they’re going to use this,” said Van Frank. “It’s already being used heavily. We’re getting thousands of people using our trail already.”
“I can tell you that the people who live on the trail are pleased with the users,” he added. “I see hundreds a day just in the city, on the Alice Bish Trail, even during the fall and the early spring. I’m seeing a lot of folks that are using this.”
The project has received “in kind” support from Darke County Engineer Jim Surber, among others, said Van Frank, noting the villages of Bradford and Gettysburg, the City of Greenville, Greenville Township, as well as the Darke County Board of Commissioners have all been very receptive to the trail project.
“I cannot thank Jim Surber, our Darke County Engineer, enough, and his employees’ input into this project, from day one. Jim has been a great individual and supporter of the trail. They’ve all been great to work with,” he said.
Van Frank also wished to thank Greenville Planning and Zoning Director Chad Henry for his efforts.