By DENISE GRANT
Potential bicycle and pedestrian trails, stretching from Findlay’s Broad Avenue to Riverside Park, are the focal point of a study by the Stantec engineering firm about how to use the green space created over the past 10 years by clearing the Blanchard River floodway.
The bicycle trails would be an extension of trails that already line part of the river to the north. The pedestrian paths would follow the south bank.
Steve Wilson, project manager for both the Hancock County Engineer’s Office and the Maumee Watershed Conservancy District, Defiance, presented initial drawings of the paths at an informal meeting of Findlay City Council on Thursday.
About 160 flood-prone structures, both homes and businesses, have been purchased and removed from the flood plain in Findlay since the disastrous flood of August 2007.
Wilson said he will work until the end of the year to gather ideas for the space along the potential paths.
“It could be something as simple as plant grass and keep mowing it,” he said.
Stantec has recommended planting the trails with grasses that only need mowing once or twice a year.
“They think we mow too much,” Wilson said.
Stantec plans to plant flood-tolerant grass along the area of the river that will be widened in Findlay. Work to improve the hydraulics of the river is expected to begin next spring. “Benches” will be cut into about 2,000 feet of the Blanchard River’s banks between the railroad bridge and Broad Avenue. The benches will increase the river’s capacity.
The Hancock County commissioners contracted with the Stantec engineering firm in April for a recommendation on how to use the empty properties. The contract was for $7,500, paid out of the county’s flood fund.
Wilson said the Federal Emergency Management Agency requires development of a plan for use of green space created when federal funds are used to purchase property and raze buildings.
About $301,000 in federal and state money has been used by the City of Findlay to purchase properties in the area of Main Street and the Blanchard River in downtown Findlay, and the area by Main Cross Street and Lye Creek.
In all, a total of about $8.4 million has been spent to purchase and clear properties in Hancock and Putnam counties, using a blend of state, federal and local tax money.
Findlay Safety Director Paul Schmelzer said FEMA could be satisfied with a brief plan for the relatively few properties that were purchased with federal funds, which would avoid locking the city and county into a plan for the rest of the properties.
“Planting it and mowing it could be our plan,” he said.
Councilman Grant Russel, R-At-Large, said the area around Civitan Park, south of Clinton Court, appears to be a prime site for development of an inner-city park, and he hopes the plan will be more than just mowing it.