On November 4th, Valpo Parks cut the ribbon on the newest addition to the city' walking and biking trails: the Vale Park West Pathway. The project was a collaboration celebrated by many partners, including NIRPC, INDOT, Troyer Group, and Gariup Construction.
City Administrator Bill Oeding said, “It’s a pleasure serving as City Administrator, especially in a city like Valparaiso that wants to do so much in a lot of ways for quality of life. To talk about the vision I think I’d like to go back and talk a little bit about the history of our path system.”
Fairgrounds Park was developed in 1985, the same year that John Siebert entered the Parks system. In the mid 90s, Senator Bill Alexa approved a grant for a path connecting Cooks Corner School to Lakewood Park.
Then there was a ten year rut. However since 2004, almost 20 miles of alternative paths, including bike routes, have been created.
“When you make something a priority,” said Oeding, “Things happen.”
John Siebert, Director of Valpo Parks, said, “One of the fun things I got to do was be a part of the team of this design and to watch Stu (Summers) work and advocate this project within the framework of how that happens. A room full of advocates for their different projects, within their communities, and how Stu worked that room and really made this project happen.”
Summers is the Executive Director of the Redevelopment Commission. They matched funds for the project at 20% and will continue to develop other park projects.
The pathway is 3/4 of a mile long. It features a 220 ft bridge over a creek, a pair of drinking fountains, and a hilly background. It took six months to construct but at this point, the project is not done. More benches and trees will be added in the Spring. There will also be signs with the park's GPS location added, in case of emergency.
“When these projects are done and the numbers counted up half [of the funding] comes from federal funding," explained Summers. "I think that’s important because every year, there’s someone in the legislature who wants to re-examine, or mend or somehow change the tax increment finance statutes in Indiana. When they come under attack you need to understand these are your funds and they are used for projects like this. We ask that you continue to support [the statutes.]”
Continued funding will bring the pathways to other parts of the city. They have plans for Bogota in the Northwest, Heritage Valley South of Route 30, and into new subdivisions like Irongate.
“The big picture of this pathway,” said Steve Antonetti, Director of Business Operations for Valpo Parks and a liaison for Pathways, “Is it is a connection from the housing areas to the downtown and beyond. It provides an opportunity to travel safely and recreationally. It helps create a quality of life that we all strive for.”
Donna Quint, a local resident, was one of the first people to walk the full length of the pathway after its official opening.
“I absolutely love it,” she said. “I live in Keystone right across the way. It’s so much safer for the kids to walk now, and even for adults. It’s just so peaceful.”