A proposed sixth leg of Marietta's River Trail that would run from Indian Acres Park to an undetermined location in Devola has been on the city's docket before and may be back on the burner in the coming year or two.
"At one time, the city pursued an enhancement grant to connect from Butler Street...all the way out to Devola," said Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker.
The project would have been a collaboration between Marietta, Washington County and Marietta Township, he added.
Although enhancement funds were available, "The city got snarled on right-of-way acquisitions," said Tucker. "The project didn't move forward very quickly and time started to run out on the grant."
Funding issues would remain key to getting a sixth phase of the project back in consideration again.
A letter of interest for alternative transportation funds, which would start the ball rolling on possible new funding for the trail's sixth leg, would be due Feb. 1, Tucker said.
Marietta's River Trail
Advantages of adding a new, sixth phase
Safer travel for those currently biking to and from Devola, who have to come near Ohio 60 in some places on the existing "trail."
Additional tourism dollars from long-distance bikers who may stay overnight and eat meals in Marietta.
Possible increase in the number of work commuters in Washington County.
Savings in gas and reduction of fossil consumption.
Source: Times research.
"Maybe a realistic goal would be to shoot for Feb. 1, 2014 for a letter of interest," he added.
Of course much more would be involved in making the project reality.
"You need to have all of your right of way either secured or 90 some percent squared away" in order to be considered for grant monies, said Tucker.
In the meantime, Tucker's department has its "plate full" with the construction of the River Trail's third phase next year.
The Ohio Department of Transportation awarded construction of the trail's third leg-to run 0.97 miles of trail at a cost just under $1.096 million-to Shelly & Sands, Inc.
"It will extend the current trail...to essentially near the intersection of East Eighth Street and Jefferson Street by the waste water plant," said Tucker.
Because the Washington County commissioners have collaborated with the city of Marietta on other projects, county commissioner Tim Irvine said "If a proposal (for Phase 6) was presented, I'm sure that we would consider it."
Although newly-elected county commissioner David White has no say in how Washington County spends its money until he assumes his position in January, he said the only way he would support such a project would be if grant monies were involved.
"These are expensive projects," he said.
According to Tucker, the "vast majority" of construction for Phase 6 would be outside city limits.
"In my opinion, the project champion should be either someone from the county or the township to take the lead on the project, with the city to assist on our portion," he said.
City involvement in the maintenance of existing and future phases of the River Trail are also in the works, said Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward.
In the past, Kalter has noted maintenance concerns like some cracked, pitted and grooved areas of asphalt, as well as places where grass is growing up through the pavement.
A proposed $2,000 line item in Marietta's 2013 budget would address the cost of maintenance and repairs.
"We wouldn't think of not having a fund to maintain city streets," said Kalter. "This is the start of one for the River Trail."
Should the River Trail be extended to Devola, it "would provide a scenic path that (bikers) can take to downtown Marietta," said Andy Coleman, city of Marietta's development director. "Long-distance bikers tend to like trips that are 50 to 60 miles. That in turn helps spur the economic development of downtown Marietta from people spending the night here and eating here."
Cindy Brown, 56, of Devola was pumped about the possibility of an extension of the River Trail to Devola.
"I would be ecstatic because I'm retired and I have a bike and I would love to be able to ride in (from Devola) and connect with the rest of the trail," said Cindy Brown, 56, of Devola.
George Banziger, 69, of Devola, agreed.
"That would be a wonderful addition," said Banziger, who is a biker. "Such a trail would give us an opportunity to bike rather than drive, which saves gas and helps everybody by reducing fossil consumption."
Although she can ride her bike or walk on the "trail" now, Brown said some areas are impassable, like the intersection of Ohio 60 and 821.
"That gets very narrow. You're basically in traffic there," she added.
Brown called the River Trail "one of Marietta's greatest assets. There are communities around the country that would give their eye teeth for that."