KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - All points of the city of Kokomo's trail system will meet this July at a spot on the south bank of the Wildcat Creek.
The trailhead, an estimated $900,000 project, will bring together the east/west running Wildcat Walk of Excellence and join it with the north/south Industrial Heritage Trail.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight is calling it the last piece of the puzzle for a trail system nearly a decade in the making. It will run from Lincoln Road and U.S. 31 to downtown, east to Waterworks Park and west to UCT Park.
City officials are hoping to have the entire project, which will include a pedestrian bridge over the Wildcat Creek, finished by July 4.
That goal includes running a new spur from the downtown trailhead south along existing railroad tracks to Markland Avenue, to meet up with the northern terminus of the Industrial Heritage Trail.
The bridge will sit just to the east of the old railroad trestle at Buckeye Street and will probably be a wood plank and steel structure, similar to the bridge leading over the Wildcat from Apperson Way to the green space behind Kautz Field the city has dubbed "Future Park," Goodnight told the Kokomo Tribune.
The Kokomo Board of Works has opened one bid for the trails project, from Mohr Construction, a division of E&B Paving, based in Anderson.
The $1.2 million bid was above what the city intends to spend, so city officials will sit down to value engineer the project and see what parts of the project can be performed by city crews, Goodnight said.
Goodnight called the current downtown trail kind of difficult, particularly where it runs along behind the downtown Fire Station 1, along the northern bank of the Wildcat.
The new plan is to remove the switchback, which currently takes the trail up a steep hillside, and instead build up the trail, at a gradual incline, from where it emerges from under Washington Street, all the way to the new pedestrian bridge.
Instead of following the north bank all the way to Main Street, the new trail will cross the Wildcat at the pedestrian bridge, and then split. One spur will head south toward Markland, and the other spur will continue east along the south bank, toward a new downtown restaurant scheduled to open this year.
Mike Lucas, owner of the Sly Fox bar in Kokomo and the Fox's Den restaurant in Walton, is planning to open a non-smoking, family restaurant in a former ice house located just south of the creek along Main Street.
"This is what we consider to be the last bottleneck in the east/west part of the trail system," Goodnight said. "For the people who have walked it, especially children and some of the elderly, behind the fire station and the former FSSA building, it's a steep grade, and it isn't very easy to get up."
Crews have been working for the past year to clean up the property on the south side of the creek. Recently city crews knocked down a dilapidated old garage building and graded a hillside where the new north/south trail will run.
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