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September 24, 2013

Trails group looking for Plan B after request denied

Group looking for options to extend trail to France Park entrance.

After three years, members of a local group received an answer to their request of extending an existing trail. It wasn't the answer they had hoped for.

The France Park Access Committee's request to extend the trail that runs along the Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway Corp.’s (TPW) active mainline rail corridor was denied.

Made of Friends of the Panhandle Pathway members, the committee's ultimate goal is to extend the trail to the entrance of France Park, said John Bawcum, Friends president.

They want to extend the trail about three-quarters of a mile so it can reach the park entrance from where it currently ends on the south end of the trail.

The extension request was previously submitted by the Friends group, but was denied. TPW officials revisited the request on behalf of the committee but declined it. The request was denied because of safety issues and ongoing rail freight operations, according to a letter from general manager Preston Nelson.

“Although rail corridors may appear to be of sufficient width to accommodate a shared use with the improvements contemplated by rails with trails, the entire corridor is needed for optimum system capacity,” Nelson wrote.

Committee members recently met to discuss other avenues for the extension.

Although the one denied was the best option, Bawcum said, there could be other ways. They could seek a crossing at the main rail or go over to 600 West, he said.

“The last option is out of the way,” Bawcum said.

There is an active railroad track near the end of the trail and the group is looking at the option of crossing it. They would go over to the track bed and then go through the woods — blazing their own trail, Bawcum said.

Nelson said the railroad company appreciates the interest to expand the trail and said it's willing to work toward converting non-active rail corridors to recreational trails.

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