Devola trail plans on pause

The Devola Multi-Use Trail committee has been trying to find the best possible extension of the trail now that the engineering study is finished and community feedback has been gathered.

“It’s not clear,” Paul Lewis, committee chairman, said of the trail extension. “There is widespread agreement that a really attractive, safe, smooth, scenic trail would considerably benefit the economic activity in the area. I can say that because it’s happened all over the country.”

Woolpert Inc. of Columbus completed the engineering study and attempted the difficult task of laying out the alignment from the Marietta River Trail from the boat ramp out to the multi-use trail in Devola, he said.

“They did the best they could and in many areas, they did the difficult task in choosing the least costly path and in some sections, they chose a path that many trail advocates really didn’t like,” he said.

“The thing the trail advocates agreed upon is quiet, scenic, smooth and safe. That’s what every trail user wants,” Lewis said. “Sometimes, you can’t have all of those things. Sometimes compromises have to be made.”

He explained that a couple of segments of the extension that Woolpert recommended “were clearly unsafe, not quiet and not scenic.”

Muskingum Township Trustee President Ken Schilling said there were probably people who didn’t like anything in particular about the study, although it was open for public input.

“Some wanted to stop at Devola and not enter into Devola proper,” he said. “I think it’s kind of like any other project you do. There were a few that liked what they saw, but some that weren’t happy.”

Among the three options proposed by Woolpert, there wasn’t a clear favorite among residents.

“The initial three options were kind of grounded out in the last public meeting and there was no follow-up meeting,” Schilling said. “We’ve run out of time. As far as I know, there won’t be another meeting.”

The Wood/Washington/Wirt Interstate Planning Commission granted $139,000 to the project to support the costs of the engineering study.

Schilling said the grant provided to Muskingum Township was terminated and the township had completed its part in terms of being executors of the grant.

“In terms of our grant, we felt, and the consultants felt, that we had accomplished probably the majority of what we started out to do,” he explained. “Another interested party would have to take it from here.”

He said the grant provided funds for the consultants and the township got the consultant’s results, as well as held the public hearings.

“One of the things that was pretty well solved is that the trail will incorporate the Broughton trail already there,” he said.

He noted that devising a trail that suited everyone would be very challenging.

“Some people liked challenging bike paths. We had to deal with all age groups,” he said. “The elderly wanted a path that was kind of easy to walk on. Some people wanted a biker’s path that could serve for economic purposes to bring money into the area.”

Woolpert Roads and Bridges Practice Leader Ron Mattox said the options had several variations, but they all stayed closer to the river so they would connect more destinations.

“One went in front of the IGA. One option went behind the IGA and nursery, but there would have to be more communication with those property owners,” Mattox said.

He said a third option ran near the fairgrounds, but the former Magnuson Hotel is there and the owners are trying to sell the property.

“They didn’t want anything that might interfere with the sale.” Mattox said. “We also looked at other options beside the Shell station.”

One of the early options that was quickly nixed was a route more toward I-77 that would run by the high school. Mattox said it wasn’t chosen because of the steepness of the climbs.

“The average mom with her kids probably wouldn’t take that,” he added. “We wanted to provide for as many groups as possible.”

Schilling said there was a very broad-based interest, but there was one concern for everyone – safety.

“Safety was one of the big factors on it,” he explained. “What were the safest ways of getting a trail and how to cross highways, creeks and streams.”

Woolpert was hired to do the study because of their price and their expertise.

“The consultants were people who did a lot of biking in the Columbus area,” Schilling said. “They had some feeling for the whole thing.”

Right now, the extension of the trail is in a “kind of pause” while the City of Marietta finishes work on the Marietta River Trail out over Duck Creek into the commercial district along Ohio 7.

“The city’s energies are limited and that’s what they are focused on right now,” Lewis said. “It’s going to be a wonderful section of trail, in large part because it’s going to serve what we call transportation users. The city has limited resources with personnel and money.”

These transportation users are the people going to stores such as Lowe’s or Walmart. Other visitors to the trail are recreational users, who utilize the trail for exercise, while others will use it to get to work.

“There are many people who don’t have a car or transportation. It will serve that group of people,” he added.

When that extension is finished sometime in late summer or early autumn, Lewis said he hopes the city will turn its attention to extending the trail from the boat ramp to the city limits. He said the committee will have to think about extending the trail from the city limits to Devola.

“Half of the proposed alignment is within the city. It runs from the termination of the Marietta River Trail out to the city limits near Colegate Drive,” Lewis said. “Beyond that, it’s outside the city to Devola.”

Marietta has been involved in cycling for the last 120 years, so there are a lot of opinions on the jogging and cycling trails in the area, Lewis explained. Volunteer and trail advocates try to improve the area’s non-motorized trail infrastructure.

Approximately five years ago, the Marietta Rowing and Cycling Club completed a study on the trail use on the Marietta River Trail. They found there were around 9,000 visitors to the trail a month, as well as what kind of people used the trail.

“A surprising number of people were young parents with young children,” Lewis said. “It was really a behavioral assessment, which was much more useful and tells us who the users are.”

What’s next:

• The grant provided for the trail study has been terminated.

• Three options were provided by Woolpert Inc. of Columbus.

• No further meetings on the project are planned.

Source: Ken Schilling.