Next Level Trails celebrates Burns Harbor and Portage projects

The Department of Natural Resources, the Town of Burns Harbor and the City of Portage announced the opening of a newly completed segment of the Marquette Greenway in Burns Harbor. An upcoming Portage project will extend the trail west through a portion of Indiana Dunes National Park.

“It’s hard to imagine a pair of projects that better represent the collaborative spirit of the Next Level Trails program — the Town of Burns Harbor, the City of Portage, and Indiana Dunes National Park working together to complete a challenging gap in the Marquette Greenway,” Gov. Eric J. Holcomb said. “Hoosiers’ appetite for trails is at an all-time high, and I’m proud of this important connection for your communities and the region at large.”

The 1.5-mile asphalt multi-use trail in Burns Harbor was made possible with funding from a $1,411,174 Next Level Trails (NLT) grant, covering approximately 70 percent of the total cost.

The project helps close a gap in the Marquette Greenway system, a planned 50-mile multi-state trail that would connect Chicago to New Buffalo, Michigan along the southern shore of Lake Michigan. The Burns Harbor project extends the trail west from the intersection of State Road 149 and Haglund Road to the town’s border with the City of Portage and is built on property donated by Cleveland Cliffs (formerly ArcelorMittal). The project includes a pedestrian crossing at S.R. 149 and a trailhead with parking at Navajo Trail in Burns Harbor.

The Town of Burns Harbor is grateful to the State of Indiana Next Level Trails program and additional grants through the state and federal partners that leveraged our initial $1 million investment to jumpstart 3 miles of trail development,” said Nick Loving, Burns Harbor Town Council president. “The gap in Burns Harbor has long been called the east-west connector of the Indiana Dunes National Park. We are pleased to be working with so many individuals and agencies to close it.”

The Burns Harbor project was awarded in May 2019 as part of the first round of NLT funding, which included $24.9 million for 17 trail projects. Gov. Holcomb announced the second round of awards in March, including $29.6 million for 18 communities and nonprofit organizations.

A second-round NLT award of $2,549,300 to the City of Portage Redevelopment Commission will be used to add 0.88 miles of trail that will extend the Burns Harbor project west through a portion of Indiana Dunes National Park to connect with a trail that is under construction at the Ameriplex development in Portage. The Portage project includes boardwalk through wetlands inside the national park and a pedestrian bridge over Salt Creek.

A ceremonial check was presented to Portage Mayor Sue Lynch for the project.

“We in the City of Portage believe the Marquette Greenway is such an important project to the entire Northwest Indiana region by connecting communities,” Lynch said. “Marquette Greenway has been a work in progress for years and a labor of love for many individuals that never gave upon on making this trail a reality. Through the commitment of dollars by the State of Indiana Next Level Trails program, this project is possible.”

To date, NLT has awarded nearly $55 million to 35 projects statewide to develop more than 100 miles of new trail. Including the Marquette Greenway in Burns Harbor, five projects are complete, with 9.2 miles of trail open to the public.

As part of Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level Connections initiative, the NLT program makes critical trail connections within and between communities. Next Level Trails is administered by the DNR.

More information about the NLT program can be found at on.IN.gov/NextLevelTrails.

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