The cool, misty weather didn’t detract from the excitement of the large group gathered for the groundbreaking of the Conklin Bay Trail and Boardwalk segment of the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails in Syracuse Monday afternoon. Representatives from the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails, Wawasee Property Owners’ Association, Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, Syracuse-Wawasee School Corporation, K-21 foundation, Town of Syracuse and those involved in the design and construction of the trails were present. Photo by Denise Federow
The cool, misty weather didn’t detract from the excitement of the large group gathered for the groundbreaking of the Conklin Bay Trail and Boardwalk segment of the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails in Syracuse Monday afternoon. Representatives from the Syracuse-Wawasee Trails, Wawasee Property Owners’ Association, Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, Syracuse-Wawasee School Corporation, K-21 foundation, Town of Syracuse and those involved in the design and construction of the trails were present. Photo by Denise Federow
SYRACUSE – The long-awaited Conklin Bay Trail and Boardwalk section of the Syracuse-Wawasee trails is finally coming to fruition with a ground breaking ceremony held Monday afternoon on the property of Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation.

The final funding piece for this large segment of the trail came from the state’s Next Level Trail Program, which awarded the Syracuse-Wawasee Trail a $1.1 million grant.

Former Trail Director Megan McClellan returned from her new position with Fort Wayne trails for the occasion – a project she’d been working on practically since she was hired as Executive Director for the trails five years ago.

Megan thanked everyone for coming saying, “You’re all the reason the trail is going to be happening” and added, “It’s been a long time coming.”

The keynote speaker of the abbreviated program was Dr. Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources who was representing the governor.

Clark called the event, “A big milestone in trails.”

“I’m excited to be here celebrating the very first project in the program that has become the Next Level Trails Program,” he said.

Clark said the key feature of the $90 million program was that it was in two parts – $70 million for regional trails and $20 million for local trails like this one. He said they received 82 applications for the first round of grant funding – twice as much as expected – representing 42 counties and 144 miles of trail development.

“Of those 82 applicants 17 rose to the top and the Conklin Bay Trail and Boardwalk was the cream of the crop,” Clark said.

He explained the reasons why, including that they had above the amount of matching funds required and the amount of partnerships involved, “Megan had to have an addendum because there was not enough room to list all the partners,” he said  adding that was very important to the governor.

Lastly he said Gov. Eric Holcomb “Wanted to see trails as soon as possible and this project was truly shovel ready. If all goes well you should be able to walk on it by the end of the year.”

Kay Young, chairperson for the trails and head of Wawasee Property Owner’s Association said everyone on the WPOA has supported this trail that will “provide a safe way for the public to travel – and someday, on around the lake.”

Heather Harwood, director of Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation said the piece of property that the groundbreaking was taking place was the first piece of property WACF acquired by donation that has now become 960 acres of protected land and wetlands.

Alan Tio of Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation spoke of the economic benefits of trail systems and why KEDCO was happy to partner with Syracuse-Wawasee Trails.

He said, “Trails are the number one amenity people look for” when considering a business or residential move to an area and is a great way to connect the cities and towns in the county.

He added when competing nation-wide for talent, “Trails and lakes are a very unique quality of life here that we can offer.”

This segment of trail will connect town to the WACF education center and will go along Ind. 13 near Sleepy Owl Supper Club. Future plans are to continue the trails completely around the lake.