Devola leg of River Trail to be discussed at meeting

Although the fifth phase of Marietta’s River Trail project-extending the pedestrian and bicycle pathway from Jefferson Street to Cogswell Lane-has been delayed at least a year now, a preliminary discussion is scheduled regarding a sixth extension of the trail from Indian Acres Park into Devola.

“There’s no reason that work toward both sections can’t continue in parallel-and I’ve talked with people at ODOT who say there’s no reason we can’t do both,” said Marietta Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward.

Kalter has scheduled a public meeting for 7 p.m. Sept. 9 in the Muskingum Township Building on Town Hall Road in Devola to discuss the potential trail extension and to gain input from Devola area residents.

Township, county and Marietta officials have also been invited to attend the session.

“The main effort on Sept. 9 will be to give Devola residents an opportunity to get on board with this process, and this phase of the trail would mostly be in the county’s hands to build,” Kalter said. “And we’re not advocating spending millions on that section of the river trail.”

He said expenses for right of way acquisition, for example, could be eliminated by routing the trail along areas already owned by the county or state, like the sewer line right of way between Devola and Marietta.

One of the first county officials Kalter spoke to about the proposed trail extension was Washington County engineer Roger Wright.

“I want to hear more about the plan,” Wright said. “There are some folks in the Devola area who would like to see that path extended their way, and I would like to hear what’s on their minds, too. But I think the two biggest issues will be how the trail will get from Marietta to Devola, and how it will be maintained if it’s built.”

He noted Muskingum Township doesn’t have a hotel/motel tax or other funding sources that Marietta has to help support maintenance and upkeep of the River Trail, all of which currently lies within the city limits.

Washington County Commissioner Ron Feathers, who is also a Devola area resident, agreed.

“They’ll have to take a look at how the funding would come in,” he said. “Over the last four to six years township trustees have struggled just to keep their existing roadways maintained. I think it would be great to bring the trail into Devola, but a source of funding would have to be determined.”

Feathers noted extending the trail into that area could possibly end up being decided by voters as a ballot issue.

Muskingum Township Trustee John Karas said funding and trail maintenance would definitely be issues to consider.

“But this is kind of a revisit of the trail issue,” he said. “It was also discussed several years ago when the River Trail was first being considered.”

Kalter noted the original plan for the River Trail was as a connector route between Indian Acres Park and Devola.

But that plan was shelved in favor of the current four-mile trail route from Indian Acres Park through Marietta along the Muskingum and Ohio rivers where the fifth phase of the project will eventually terminate at Cogswell Lane near the Walmart complex.

The fifth trail phase was originally scheduled for construction in 2014, but the city’s application for a $871,166 Transportation Enhancement Grant, which would provide majority funding for the project, was denied by ODOT. The city intends to reapply for that grant funding with intention of completing the next phase in 2015.

Although there has been a year’s delay for the fifth phase, Kalter said there’s little chance that the sixth phase could be done first.

“It’s unlikely because all the design work has already been completed on the fifth phase, but that’s not to say these people in Devola wouldn’t possibly make a push that would get the sixth phase done quickly,” he said. “Why not build both at the same time? We really need this to connect Devola to Marietta and eventually on to Reno. And someday hopefully we’ll be part of a trail system that runs from Zanesville to New Matamoras.”