Trail blazing

In this July 11 file photo, a couple women make their way south on the unfinished Steuben County Multipurpose Trail while workers from Brooks Construction work on preparing a driveway cut for its final coat of asphalt near the trailhead at Hoosier Hill. People have been using the second phase of the county’s portion of the trail rather consistently for some time, even though it is not officially open and there are barricades at entry points to discourage use.

ANGOLA — The new mile-plus leg of the Steuben County Multipurpose Trail is getting rave reviews.

Trouble is, it’s not open.

Many people have ignored the barricades and have hopped on the new section of trail, which connects existing trail in Pokagon State Park and that which runs from the Meijer Trailhead north to the Hoosier Hill Trailhead.

Steuben County Highway Engineer Jen Sharkey said she’s received many positive comments about the trail that runs along S.R 127, over C.R. 400N and its bridge over Interstate 69 and through the woods at Pokagon State Park.

“The reason we can’t publicly open it is the contractor is still on the hook for some items and we can’t open it up and have the public out there if the contractor’s still out there working,” said Steuben County Highway Engineer Jen Sharkey.

There is a punch list of items that need to be taken care of before the county releases the contractor, Brooks Construction, Fort Wayne, from the project. It should be soon.

Sharkey said after the punch list items are complete, another inspection will be done and if all work is done to satisfaction, it can be opened.

When the trail does officially open, it will be approximately a year behind schedule. Weather delays have been a thorn in this project’s side, as it has for many other road construction projects in northeast Indiana.

Some of the big projects from last year — U.S. 20, C.R. 200N at S.R. 827, among others — didn’t get done until this year.

The county’s improvement project on C.R. 200N was just recently declared complete, well beyond its planned 2018 substantial completion date. The next phase of that project, being done in cooperation with the city of Angola, is still in the planning stages. It will make improvements from just east of C.R. 200W to the bridge over I-69.

In the meantime, an advocacy group for the trails has formed and is named the Steuben County Trails Group. It has already received a grant from NIPSCO for an upcoming bike rodeo that will be held in conjunction with Angola Parks & Recreation.

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