Niles Township blazing trail to South BendPublished 11:11pm Monday, February 6, 2012
Niles Township is getting closer to beginning a recreation trail that would link the city of Niles trail to paths that are planned to be forged in St. Joseph County, Ind.
The Niles Township Board gave its consent Monday to have the Niles Township Parks Board enter into an agreement with American Electric Power Co. (AEP) that would lease the township a section of its property from the state line to just north of US-12.
AEP officials still need to sign the agreement before the deal is official.
Harry Thibault, the chairman of the Niles Township Parks Board, said it is a 20-year renewable lease that will allow the board to apply for grants to help fund the forging of the trail.
“We’re hoping to apply for grants by the April 12 deadline,” he said. “We’re running around like crazy to get our ducks in a row.”
Thibault said the lease is similar to the one the City of Niles received for its portion of the trail. He also said the city has been helpful to the township parks board throughout the process.
The cooperation with the city and the fact the trail is an interstate project should help the township score high on grant applications, Thibault said.
Once the trails are completed in the township and St. Joseph County, residents will be able to travel the walking and bike path from Plym Park in Niles all the way to Mishawaka. The project may still be another five years out in St. Joseph County, Thibault said.
“It will really be something when it’s done,” Thibault said.
In another act of cooperation, the city and the township are close to a 30-year water agreement.
The township approved the agreement unanimously Monday, and the city will vote on it at its meeting next week.
Treasurer Jim Ringler called it a “very fair agreement.”
Currently Niles Township residents using city water pay about 1.9 times what city users pay.
The new agreement will reduce that factor to 1.6 with the factor being adjusted every five years based on a formula.
Ringler said the city and township have been working on the agreement for more than 3 years.
“Bear in mind that the township and the city didn’t have any agreement before this,” he said.
City Councilman Bill Weimer, who was in attendance of the meeting, said the agreement is “music to my ears.”
“It’s a good document,” Weimer said. “I hope to see more cooperation in the future.”