River Valley Trail getting expansion

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 5:49 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The missing link in Michiana’s multi state hiking and biking trail system, is now under construction.

The River Valley Trail runs 17 miles from north of Niles to the east side of Mishawaka with one 1.14 mile exception.

The trail stops at the college campuses of Holy Cross and St. Mary’s although a lot of the bikers and hikers do not.

“And that trail is only a sidewalk. It’s quite narrow so if you have passing cyclists or a jogger and a biker or whatever it’s not that, you’re not that comfortable,” said trail user and Niles Township Park Board member Jill Delucia.

“There is a sidewalk, there’s a five foot concrete sidewalk that’s right behind the curb and so it’s just, it’s a little terrifying frankly to walk on it ride your bike on it.”

“And if you have more than one person trying to walk side by side is really scary,” said Paul Pfair with the 933 Corridor Improvement Association.

With the help of heavy machinery a 12-foot-wide path is being created about 20 feet away from the passing traffic.

The new 1.14 mile trail will run along SR 933 between Angela and Douglas and is being financed through a state grant of nearly $870,000 from Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources.

The grants require a local match which in this case is coming in the form of donated land.

The project is expected to be completed in October.

This week, the River Valley Trail’s first designated public parking lot quietly opened in Niles Township.

It’s the former site of a mobile home park where the trail meets Ontario Road and it’s open now that concrete foundations and pipes were removed last week.

“People who aren’t familiar with the area, they don’t know, oh I don’t know if I can park behind such and such business or not,” said Jill Delucia of the need for designated trailhead parking. “And more and more people are going to find these trails and it’ll be a destination. I can go look at Notre Dame, I can park here, ride the trail, ride around Notre Dame, spend time at St. Mary’s, they’re right on the trail.”

Meantime plans to extend the trail another nine miles from Niles to Berrien Springs inched forward.

The Southwest Michigan Planning Commission last week hired an architectural engineer to study possible routes and right of way issues involved in taking the trail to Range Line Park.

A side trail is now starting to take shape at South Bend’s Pinhook Park. The trail will form a 3/4 of a mile loop around the the park which is surrounded on three sides by a lagoon.

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