FRANKFORT, Ind. – The Clinton County Commissioners told a room of nearly 30 concerned citizens at its Wednesday meeting that despite not having the completed study from Butler Fairman & Seufert, the engineering firm paid $16,000 by the board to conduct the preliminary study, a pedestrian and bicycle trail that would connect Colfax to Frankfort would not move forward at this time.

A total of four citizens spoke against the trail during the public comment portion of the meeting; two of those four were Andy Bailey and Emily Russ.

“This trail is different – it’s big and scary at the same time,” stated Bailey addressing the commissioners. “When you compare it to the Colfax trail or the Monon trail or the one that goes along the Ronald Reagan Parkway, they don’t go in front of a lot of people’s houses.”

Russ addressed safety concerns, “One of the big issues is the fact current plans show it cutting right through Clinton Prairie – right through the entrance of the elementary school playground.”

Josh Uitts, president of the commissioners, explained the project is driven by the state and not the county.

“This isn’t a project we (commissioners) sought out – it sought us out,” said Uitts while addressing the room. “This is something that’s come from (Indiana) Governor Holcomb, his Next Level Trails program. I don’t think any of us are married to this idea of this trail. No offense to anybody that’s pro-trail, but I have bigger fish to fry right now – so to speak. We got a lot of things going on in Clinton County.”

Commissioner Jordan Brewer added, “I think we are at the point where we can continue with this study and at that point, we will have it in our back pocket going forward. We have already paid for it – we might as well see it through. There were some good suggestions of alternative routes to have them look at, so let’s expand that scope and look at other routes then down the line we have something that we can look into deeper in the future. I agree with Josh – I am not in favor of moving forward with the grant application.”

Commissioner Mark Timmons stated he agreed with both Uitts and Brewer.

Uitts talked about the grant application after the meeting, “Right now, it doesn’t appear like that’s going to be finished prior to the December 1 cutoff for the Next Level Trails grant application time period. I don’t foresee anything happening with this trail now and then. Even after that, the proposal as it stands now, none of the commissioners are in support of it.”

Uitts stated there could still be a way to construct a trail if a proposal addressed key concerns raised by citizens.

“We’ll see what the proposal says. If there is a way to reroute it so that it will not encroach on people’s front yards and things like that, we’ll take a look at that when we get the proposal done.

“When the idea of a trail program was first put out, the idea was to follow the old railroad beds, and here in Clinton County a lot of those railroad beds have been abandoned where these trails are really meant to go – the ownership has been transferred to the farmers and those railroad beds are gone.

“We understand the Governor wants to increase connectivity between communities in northern, central Indiana, but I am not sure if this is going to be a good fit for Clinton County.”

No official vote was taken and this topic remains open for future discussion.

Andy Bailey addresses the Clinton County Commissioners during the Wednesday, Sept 8, 2021, meeting regarding a study being conducted for a pedestrian and bicycle trail connecting Colfax to Frankfort. Photo: Brett W. Todd

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