AURORA -- The city is in the process of purchasing a small property on the southwest corner of the Hartman property, which could be a key to connecting the city's east side parks via a bike trail, according to Parks-Recreation Director Jim Kraus.
He said the city is in the process of finalizing the purchase of the 5.03-acre Cvrk property, which extends from the southwest corner of the Hartman property to Route 82.
"The question is how to get from the (Cvrk) property to the (former) golf course or Spring Hill," he said.
He told the recreation advisory committee at its Feb. 20 meeting the wheels are in motion to provide a trail along Shagbark Trail, a paper street which runs north and south along the boundary between the former Aurora Country Club property and the Audibon Society's Aurora Sanctuary from Route 82 to East Pioneer Trail.
Test borings are being done in that area to determine what kind of bridges will work to span two stream crossings along the possible trail.
"Two bridges were kept from the country club," he said, adding the borings will help determine whether they can be used along the trail. "Construction of that trail could be in the future. We're still a little ways from constructing it."
Kraus said he is interested in connecting the Hartman property on the north end of town with the Harmon farms along Page and Bartlett roads at the south end of town via bike trails.
"If we can create connections that can get you from Sunny Lake to the golf course, then that's great," he said. "Think about the exercise and recreation you can get just from that."
Recreation advisory committee chairman Pete Conces said he could see the beginnings of a network of trails connecting the city's parks in that area of town.
"That's got to be about 3 miles when it's all said and done," he said.
Kraus said he would ultimately like to see Spring Hill, the golf course, the Hartman property, Sunny Lake Park and the Harmon farms connected via bike trails.
Committee member Mike DeMay said he thought a connection could be made from East Mennonite Road to Sunny Lake along a service road, but Kraus said that route isn't possible because the property was sold and the city doesn't have access to the service road anymore.
If the city can manage to connect the Harmon farms all the way to the Hartman property, those trails may someday tap into the Portage Park District's Headwaters Trail, the western end of which is currently in Mantua.
Kraus said there are plans to continue the trail west into Aurora and possibly on to Solon. There are two basic routes being contemplated from Mantua to Aurora -- one along East Pioneer Trail and the other along the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
DeMay said he's not sure it's worth continuing to try to talk to the railroad about gaining access to the rail bed. "I'd give up on that railroad," he said. "We've been working on that for 20 years."
Kraus said the route along the railroad line is the less expensive route. He said it would cost about $2.1 million, while a route along East Pioneer Trail would cost around $6.2 million, and that's with limestone. Asphalt would increase the costs to about $2.5 million along the railroad and $6.7 million along the road.
A February 2016 email from Bryant Thomas, manager of government relations for Norfolk Southern, to Kraus and Portage Parks District Executive Director Christine Craycroft outlined the railroad's position on the request to use the rail easement for a trail. He cited a lease with Cleveland Commercial Railroad east to Mantua.
"Although that segment from Solon down to Mantua does not have active service, my understanding from planning is that there are future potential sites that may need rail service and also the possibility of passenger service along this line as well," states Thomas in the email.
City officials have said they've had difficulty engaging the railroad company in the discussions recently.
Kraus said a variety of factors contribute to the expense of creating a trail along roads from Mantua to Aurora. "That was significantly higher because now you're talking about new culverts and other things you've got to work through," he said.
He said topography, safety and limits of the right-of-way can be other obstacles to taking a route alongside a road. Kraus said he plans to focus on internal trail connections and hope Norfolk Southern has a change of heart regarding the Mantua to Solon right of way.
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