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A dedicated Tippecanoe Co. bike trail, top to bottom? Yes, please. But where?
Consultants have mapped out possible routes for Tippecanoe County's portion of the Big 4 Trail. They want to know: Which one does Lafayette/West Lafayette want most?
Once upon a time, when I was still putting a few miles on the bike, I had what I called escape routes from the middle of Lafayette.
Depending on prevailing winds on a particular day, there were ways to brave traffic in any direction in town and be on relatively lightly traveled roads in a matter of five miles or fewer.
My legs aren’t what they used to be. And the escape routes are getting longer as Lafayette and West Lafayette spread out and traffic builds into spots that once were more reliably quiet. (Insert your own “I remember when County Road 350 South wasn’t even there” age marker here.)
So, it’s interesting to contemplate which of those escape routes to the north, northwest and northeast might one day include a dedicated trail, something along the lines of the Monon Trail in and around Indianapolis or the Big 4 trail between Lebanon and Thorntown.
For the next few weeks, consultants hired by Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County for what’s called the Big 4 Trail Masterplan are gauging where a trail running through the county, bottom to top, should go.
The plan is part of a bigger project, eventually looking to connect Indianapolis and Chicago with a trail. And this would be Tippecanoe County’s piece.
The trail’s southern leg would follow and reuse the path of the old Big 4 railroad bed from Thorntown, near the southeastern corner of Tippecanoe, and head toward Lafayette – roughly along the line of U.S. 52.
What isn’t clear is the best way to build – or connect – a dedicated bike/pedestrian trail through Lafayette and West Lafayette and send it to the northern edge of the county.
Up North Ninth Street Road, past Prophetstown State Park, and hook up with Pretty Prairie Road?
North out of West Lafayette’s trails, past Harrison High School and the Cairo Watch Tower – a Korean War-era relic – toward the wind farms of White County?
How about along Sagamore Parkway as a connection through Lafayette? Or dipping down through Wabash Avenue?
There are more. Check the map attached here.
“Exactly where is still in question,” Jessica Nix, a landscape Architect with contractor Butler, Fairman & Seufert, Inc., said during one of two community planning meetings held over Zoom last week.
“Our options have not been set in stone,” Nix said. “We’re looking for you all to guide us in the right direction that seems to make the most sense for the community.”
To that point, planners released a survey Monday, looking for cyclists, hikers, runners and walkers to rank the routes they think would be best. The survey also includes a bunch of other questions about what a trail should have, including access to food, drinks and attractions along the way.
Here’s the link: Big 4 Trail Masterplan Survey.
Deadline: June 4.
Beyond that, consultants – paid for through grants from the Indiana Department of Health – expect to have a draft plan ready by mid-July, a final draft by the end of September and review of the plan at Lafayette City Council, West Lafayette City County and Tippecanoe County commissioners in October, according to a schedule laid out during last week’s public presentations.
Once a route is chosen, the cities and county plan to work on getting federal and state transportation funding to start installing the trail, Margy Deverall, a planner in Lafayette’s economic development department, said.
How long that would take wasn’t set.
Until then, here’s to making do with the escape routes we have.