Community Foundation grant will allow for expansion of pathway

The Bluffton Lions Foundation, Inc. has received a one-year matching grant of $61,600 from the Findlay-Hancock County Community Foundation to expand the Bluffton bike and pedestrian pathway system in the Hancock County portion of Bluffton.
“The primary goal of this project is to enhance public safety and recreation by extending the Bluffton pathway system from its current eastern terminus along a scenic abandoned railroad spur to Bluffton’s Commerce Lane business district located in Hancock County and near the Interstate 75 interchange,” said Dick Ramseyer, president of the Bluffton Lions Foundation and chair of the Bluffton Pathway board.
The Bluffton pathways master plan, formalized in 2009 when the Lions Foundation partnered with the Village of Bluffton through the Bluffton Pathway board, identifies two top priority projects due to the potential to greatly improve public safety on heavily trafficked routes that lack sidewalks: a west-side connection along Augsburger Road to growing residential areas and retirement communities, and an east-side connection that would link Main Street, the village park and the Commerce Lane business district.
The Village of Bluffton’s Pathway board has secured a $260,000 commitment from the Ohio Department of Transportation for the west-side connection along Augsburger Road which covers 80 percent of the projected construction cost plus a 20 percent local match commitment from the Bluffton Lions Foundation. The project is scheduled by ODOT for construction to begin as early as July 2016.
The Community Foundation is providing grant funding to partially support the completion of the east-side connection, a .6-mile, 8-foot wide asphalt pathway along the abandoned Norfolk and Southern railroad spur that will link the village to the high traffic business district near the I-75 interchange.
Expected to be completed in October, the bike and pedestrian pathway will provide a route along an area that includes retail and hospitality businesses.
According to Ramseyer, there are many benefits of trails and greenways. “Trails and greenways make our communities more livable, improve the economy through tourism and civic improvement, preserve and restore open space, and provide opportunities for physical activity to improve fitness and mental health. Bike and pedestrian paths provide important transportation options, economic development opportunities and recreational outlets and are also critical transportation links to residences, businesses, schools, dining and other daily destinations.”
The $61,600 grant was approved at the Community Foundation’s board of trustees’ Feb. 20 meeting.

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