Pulaski Commissioners Defer Decision on Letter of Support for Panhandle Pathway Extension

The Pulaski County Commissioners aren’t ready to give a letter of support for efforts to obtain grant funding to extend the Panhandle Pathway. Plans call for the extension of the trail south to France Park and north to the Tippecanoe River State Park. A later phase would continue the Pathway north from there, to meet the North Judson Erie Trail near Bass Station.

Friends of the Panhandle Pathway Board Member Fred Kasten discussed the plans with the commissioners Monday. He emphasized that the group isn’t asking for any money from Pulaski County. “What we do want is support from the commissioners to help us get funds from people that are willing to spend their money on us,” Kasten explained.

Friends of the Panhandle Pathway is working with Cass County to apply for funding from the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network. That, in turn, may count toward a local match for a Next Level Trails grant.

But Commissioner Mike McClure was hesitant to support the extension to the state park, unless all the affected landowners are on board. “We don’t want the landowners coming back to us saying, ‘Well, why did you guys even approve it when you know we were against it?'” McClure said.

The route would run on land owned by the Town of Winamac, some private property, and the U.S. 35 easement. That would require an arrangement involving the Indiana Department of Transportation, as well as the local landowners. Kaston said he didn’t know how many landowners aren’t willing to sign on, but there are four or five who are.

Commissioner Jerry Locke also pointed out that some landowners have irrigation equipment on both sides of U.S. 35. Kasten felt their needs for access can be taken into account.

County Attorney Kevin Tankersley stressed that the county doesn’t have any power or control over the trail or the proposed right of way. “I think what they are saying is that they would like symbolic support,” Tankersley said. “I don’t fully understand how it helps you get granting, but that’s what they’re saying, it helps them get grant funding. But to be clear for the record and for the paper and everything, you have no power over that land and you have no say over that land.”

After discussing the issue for 15 minutes Monday, the commissioners decided to table it, to give Commissioner Locke a chance to discuss the matter with some of the landowners. They’re expected to continue the discussion during their joint session with the county council on Monday. Kasten said the grant application to the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network is due by Friday, April 12.