Monday, August 9, 2021
By Tom Millhouse
MARIA STEIN – Several years of planning and fundraising will soon pay off as construction of the $ 1.175 million Marion Township Greenway began last week.
The contract for the project was awarded to Tom’s Construction of St. Henry. Although completion may be delayed due to inclement weather, it is expected to be completed by the end of October, said Bob Unrast, administrator for the Township of Marion.
The 3.1 mile paved trail for cyclists and walkers will begin at Marion Township Park and continue along the property donated by the Precious Blood Sisters and the Maria Stein Spiritual Center to the Marion Community Industrial Park and will end at State Route 716.
Nick Moeller, a member of the cycle paths committee, said discussions about the project started in 2016, but the idea goes back even further.
“I think interest in a bike path has been around for decades,” he said, noting that he had stumbled across a 1970s button proclaiming his support for a Marion Township bike path.
“We started to reach out to see if we could make this project happen,” Moeller said. “Interest in the project led to the formation of a cycle path committee.
“Our goal as a committee is to try to connect our community to make it safe and give people something to enjoy,” said committee member Ben Moeller. “I think there are a lot of people who are eager to allow their children to go from one part of the community to another without having to hit the road,” he said.
The committee, which also includes Brad Knapke, Randy Liette, Dave Rengers, Marianne Bruns, Sandi Holdheide, Dani Otte and Darrin Poeppelman, brought the project to the attention of the Marion Township administrators, who agreed to continue funding. Unrast said Ron Puthoff of Chickasaw offered advice on raising public funds for the project.
Unrast said the township received a grant of $ 869,500 from the Ohio Public Works Commission as part of the Clean Ohio Fund’s green space conservation program. The local counterpart for the project is $ 305,500.
Unrast said the township purchased 14 acres in the industrial park from the Marion Community Land Development Organization for $ 248,000 to use as land for the road. The Trustees also received the donation of 5.5 acres of land from the Maria Stein Spiritual Center and 2.6 acres from the Precious Blood Sisters for the bike path and green space conservation area.
The bike path is part of the Township of Marion Greenway Project, which is designed to conserve green spaces and wildlife habitat and provide educational opportunities for students.
Parking for users of the cycle path will be provided on Booster Drive in the industrial park. Existing parking is also available at Marion Community Park on St. Johns Road in Maria Stein.
The committee has been busy raising funds to provide the corresponding local funds. In addition to securing private donations through the Marion community website at www.marioncommunities.com, the committee will be hosting a craft beer, wine and food festival on September 11. The Moellers reported this week that almost all 300 tickets for the event have been sold.
The committee is approaching its goal of raising $ 305,500 for the project.
“We’re very close to our goal, we’re under $ 18,000,” said Nick Moeller.
Fundraising efforts were also undertaken by younger local residents. The Moellers said the children of Maria Stein’s Chapel Hill Subdivision have raised several hundred dollars with their lemonade stand in recent years.
Other fundraisers have included a party in the park for three years and a Greenway Founders’ Brick Club campaign which is underway on the website. Donations of $ 500 will be recognized with a brick engraved on the bike path and donations over $ 2,500 will be recognized on a plaque.
Township officials praised the committee’s fundraising efforts.
“They did a great job,” said Bonnie Garrison, township finance officer.
Unrast and the Moellers, who are cousins, have said they hope to extend the bike path to Chickasaw in the future, but no timeline has been set for a second phase.
“It’s hard to put a schedule (on the second phase),” Ben Moeller said. “Our feeling is that once this is over and people see it, they will be eager to see it grow.”