Bike Path Grant Application Withdrawn, Another Pending

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An application to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for funding to help build a bike path extension from Athens to Athens County Road 24A (South Canaan) has been withdrawn. Whether it will impact the proposed project remains to be seen.

On the recommendation of interim county planner Bob Eichenberg, the county commissioners recently voted to withdraw an application seeking $150,000 from the Recreational Trails Program.

The money, combined with $321,618 that was being sought from ODNR through the Clean Ohio Trail Fund, would have covered nearly all the matching funds needed for the project.

However, Eichenberg was notified by ODNR that the county should not apply for the Recreational Trails Program grant with the idea that the other grant request would also be approved to cover the needed amount.

“They treat the grants as totally separate,” Eichenberg said.

Because the one application has been withdrawn, a larger amount — $471,000 — will be sought through the Clean Ohio Trail Fund. Eichenberg said the county should learn this fall if it has been funded.

The original reason for submitting two different applications to ODNR was the belief that ODNR might be more likely to fund a smaller Clean Ohio Trail Fund application, Eichenberg said.

The overall cost estimate for extending the bike path eastward from Athens is $1.66 million, and it’s hoped that $1.11 million of that will come federal funds that will be sought through the Ohio Department of Transportation. The county has submitted a letter of interest to ODOT expressing the county’s desire to apply for the federal funds.

If all goes as planned, the $1.11 million would be matched with the $471,000 from the Clean Ohio Trail Fund and the in-kind contribution from Holzer Clinic of an easement (valued at $76,000) needed for the bike path extension.

Eichenberg has said previously that that extending the bike path to County Road 24A would provide a way for riders to access the county road system east of Athens without riding on four-lane Route 50.

Eichenberg began serving as interim planner after the resignation of planner Emily Carnahan at the end of 2014. As The Messenger reported last week, Miranda Kridler will become the new planner on May 4.