Starke County Forest Access Road Upgrades Complete

The Starke County Forest’s new access road is now complete. The County Highway Department recently upgraded the old access trail into a gravel road with a 10-to-12-car parking lot. The work was funded by a $15,000 grant from the Hardesty Memorial Endowment Fund.

Highway Superintendent Rik Ritzler told the Starke County Park Board Tuesday that the cost of materials only ended up being a little over $7,000. He asked board members which of the project’s optional items they’d like to complete with the leftover money.

However, Board President Roger Chaffins said $7,000 will go to Bob Aloi with Territorial Engineering. Ritzler took issue with that amount. “He didn’t do the plans,” Ritzler said. “We told him. We outlined where it was supposed to be. We don’t him the depth of the thing. The only thing he was was the draftsman. If he charged $7,000 for that, that was a little too much.”

But Ritzler admitted that Aloi did handle the survey marks, and County Attorney Marty Lucas pointed out that the project had to go through the county’s zoning board. “That ended up being kind of time-consuming, I have to say. It took more of my time than I thought it was going to take, too,” Lucas said.

In spite of the engineering fee, the park board was able to include a few of the optional items. Board members agreed to add a $531 bike rack, as recommended by member Debbie Mix. “Because someone who’s going to walk the forest certainly would also be the same type of person that would be riding a bicycle there,” Mix said.

Other additional work will include more than $700 worth of signage in and around the forest, and a new gate to block access to the back of the forest, for just under $600. Since not all of that can be covered by the grant, the park board authorized up to $1,500 to be spent out of the dedicated forest fund. That money comes from the forest’s timber sales.