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Northern bike trail to close

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As of Thursday, Nov. 18, the Little Miami Scenic Trail, also known as the bike path, will be closed north of Jackson Road indefinitely.

The action was sparked by the Election Day failure of a .153-mill levy to raise funds for the Clark County Park District. The levy would have raised $360,000 a year for seven years for parks upkeep, including funds to maintain and patrol the bike path.

“These are the sort of hard decisions that have to be made when times are bad,” said Clark County Park District Director Jim Campbell in an interview on Monday.

Because of the levy failure, the Clark County Park District will close the George Rogers Clark Park, a 250-acre park outside Springfield, the 255-acre Estel Wenrick Wetlands in Medway and two sections of the bikepath, the 5.6 mile segment from Jackson Road north of Yellow Springs to Beatty Station, and an 11-mile segment of the Prairie Grass Trail from Greene County to Madison County.

According to Campbell, barricades will be placed at the openings of the trail on Nov. 18 to keep people from using it, and all maintenance will be discontinued.

Many members of the Yellow Springs community use the Clark County segment of the Little Miami Scenic Trail bikepath, both for recreation and transportation.

“It’s really shocking,” said Dennie Eagleson, a Nonstop Institute member and former Antioch College faculty. Eagleson and her husband live on Huston Road, and she bikes to town regularly, partly due to her desire to live sustainably and not pollute the environment.

“This is detrimental in terms of environmental issues,” she said.

Living right on the bike path, Eagleson is also aware of its popularity.

“I see it being used all the time,” she said. “There’s groups of kids, families.”

While it’s difficult to be precise about the cost of trail upkeep, Campbell said a generic estimate is that it costs about $1,000 a year for each mile of trail upkeep, meaning the Little Miami bikepath costs about $5,600 yearly in upkeep. His crew needs to mow the path weekly during the growing season, a task that takes two of his three employees, Campbell said. While maintenance needs on the trail declines considerably in the winter, the park district cannot keep the trail open if it can’t afford to patrol the path regularly, he said.

“If you go in and we haven’t been able to patrol it, and a tree has fallen down, it would be unsafe,” he said.

The Clark County Park District has been struggling with financial problems for the past several years, since the National Trail Parks and Recreation District, which operated the parks and trails, ceased doing so in recent years. That agency had been the funding source since 2000, when Clark County and Springfield signed a contract with the agency to manage the park district.

According to Campbell, after the National Trail organization stopped operating the parks, the park district requested funding from the Clark County Commissioners, but that request was turned down. With the help of supporters, the district continued operations by hosting three fundraisers that yielded about $30,000, in addition to the proceeds from the sale of a small farm owned by the district. Through the summer district employees worked to help pass the levy.

The levy vote was only 3,500 votes short, out of 44,000 votes cast in the midterm election in Clark County, Campbell said. But that shortfall meant that the county parks are now closing.

The district is now focusing on creating a plan to raise more money to present to the county commission. However, Campbell said that he had no idea when the plan would be completed or if it would be approved, and he could not speculate on when the bike path north of Jackson Road will open again.

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