LORAIN — The end is in sight for the Black River Bikeway project.
While Lorain County Metro Parks is still in the midst of designing and constructing phase 3B, it held a public meeting for the final phase, 3C, on Thursday night, giving local residents, officials and others a chance to weigh in on the project.
More than 20 years in the making, the Black River Bikeway will stretch from the North Coast Inland Trail, through Cascade Park, through Black River Reservation and up into Lorain, ending at the lake. The final phase looks to connect Colorado Avenue, Longfellow Park, Century Park — and via U.S. Route 6, Lakeside Landing. The 1.3-mile section will run through public right-of-way and public and private easements, with minimal disruptions during construction along Colorado and Kansas avenues and neighborhood streets.
Lorain County Metro Parks director Jim Ziemnik said it was important to connect the bikeway to the waterfront.
“You’ve got to look for opportunities to get the public to the lake — give them a trail, a green space, to it.” he said. “It’s a very ... basic psychological need about water. We all need water, we can live without food for a number of days but we all need water. Don’t disconnect from it, embrace it.”
The bikeway runs through several municipalities and is part of the Lorain Active Transportation Plan.
According to the Metro Parks, the bulk of the cost for each phase has been paid for through federal funding — with a roughly 80/20 split between the federal portion and local costs. Phase 3A cost about $690,000, Phase 3B is estimated about $1 million — due to an extra $30,000 for the Metro Parks to build a boardwalk through wetlands — and Ziemnik estimates 3C to cost somewhere in between the two previous phases.
The Metro Parks is anticipating work on 3C to start in April 2020 and to be finished that November, though the design and engineering has yet to be finalized.
By connecting to Lakeside Landing, the Metro Parks looks to increase programming and use of the lakefront, in conjunction with the Lorain Port Authority.
The completed trail also will tie into U.S. bikeway 130, which runs along Route 6 in Lorain. Bikeway 130 is one of two national bikeways routed through the county, with the other — Bikeway 30 — farther south.
“We’re getting the potential for people to come through, visit our cities, visit our county, spend money, stay in hotels, eat the food, etc. Enjoy the lakefront that we have here in Lorain County, especially here in Lorain, and we think — working with the county commissioners and all the mayors — there’s some amazing opportunities here that I think we can capture.”
Ziemnik hopes as the final phase moves forward and the bikeway connects to the national route, that Lorain County’s lakefront and trails can become a destination for bikers, backpackers and other adventurers from across the country.
But even as public comments roll in and the overarching trail nears completion, Metro Parks staff already are looking at what’s next and ways to keep its parks kept-up and fresh to keep residents coming back.
“It’s the joy of getting it done, and you go ‘great, yee-haw,’ and I don’t mean to be (dismissive) but it’s like, what’s next?” Ziemnik said.
For more information, or to submit a comment on the Black River Bikeway plans, contact the Lorain County Metro Parks at pr@metro parks.cc or (440) 458-5121.