Great Miami River Trail is nearly complete thanks to ARPA funds
MetroParks of Butler County will use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act and other grants to nearly complete the 80-plus mile Great Miami River Trail, a paved, mixed-use walk/bike trail extending from Fairfield to Piqua.
Butler County commissioners awarded MetroParks $2.5 million in ARPA funding Dec. 5. Those dollars will be combined with a $1.1 million OKI Regional Council of Governments grant and a $200,000 state capital grant.
"We're really excited to be able to start construction on these projects and it certainly means a lot to us that the Butler County commissioners, our state legislators, as well as OKI, identified this project as being one worthy to fund," says Katie Ely-Wood, supervisor of community and park relations with MetroParks of Butler County.
The ARPA funds will go toward completing a 3.1 mile portion of trail connecting Lemon, Liberty and Fairfield townships.
"The ARPA funding will not cover the entirety of (the five mile gap), but we're confident that in the next several years we will be able to get enough funding to get that totally closed," adds Ely-Wood.
The OKI and state dollars will finish the 1.6 mile Middletown-Monroe gap (also called the Lemon Township gap). Construction on a third 2.4 mile gap through Monroe, which Monroe is managing, is slated to begin soon.
A construction timeline hasn't been set. Ely-Woods says she's hopeful the entire trail could be completed in 10 years. MetroParks opened a 0.7 mile extension earlier this year at Rentschler Forest.
"The Great Miami River Trail is super important to Butler County and, I would say, the greater Southwest Ohio area in general because it's a way of connecting communities," says Ely-Wood. "Folks can get on the Great Miami River Trail and not only explore other communities close to them, but also hop on the trail and explore places they may have never been before."
It's expected to be an economic driver, too. The greater Miami Valley’s trail network generates $13 million in yearly economic impact. Ely-Wood notes a Butler County Visitor’s Bureau study determined parks and trails are "two of the top attractions that would make Butler County more inviting to visitors."
Ely-Wood says the COVID-19 pandemic helped spur the trail on toward completion with people increasingly interested in being outdoors and getting or staying healthy.