Plan in works to connect trails in Butler, Warren counties

Plans for a multi-use trail linking the Great Miami and Little Miami trails in Warren and Butler counties are taking shape again.

The Miami-2-Miami Connector, most recently proposed in 2001, is now part of a multi-state initiative aimed at completing and extending the network of trails leading from Piqua to Fairfield, Springfield to Cincinnati, and beyond.

In addition to biking and hiking enthusiasts, the Miami-2-Miami Connector appeals to health advocates and economic development officials attracted to studies showing some people are willing to pay $9,000 more to live a mile from a trail.

A connected trail system could also draw tourists to an area already crisscrossed by more than 330 miles of continuous trail or designated routes shared with motorists.

“The big thing we are going to focus on is the Miami-2-Miami Connector,” said Wade Johnston, regional trails coordinator for Tri-State Trails, which is behind the project. “We’re trying to find the best route.”

An east-west connector between the trails following the Great Miami and Little Miami rivers and bookending the Miami Valley already exists. The Creekside Trail runs from Xenia to Dayton, and two others are proposed.

The Great-Little Trail already runs from Crains Run Park in Miami Twp. to Austin Landing and down Austin Boulevard and Social Row in Washington Twp., where it ends for now. Eventually it is mapped out to reach the Little Miami trail at Corwin or Spring Valley.

The Ohio Department of Transportation will be posting signs for the Piqua to Urbana Trail, but the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission envisions a dedicated trail in the future.

“To our knowledge there are no concrete plans in the works for the trails that would make this a reality,” Matt Lindsay of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission said in an email.

There are currently no connectors to the south in Warren or Butler counties to the trail system, and plans to do so had been shelved until recently.

In 2001, two routes were envisioned for the connector between Mason-Deerfield Twp. in Warren County and Hamilton or Fairfield in Butler County.

Johnston has revived talk of the connector since taking the helm of the regional trails group a year ago.

Trail advocates and city planners have gathered at a series of forums to consider options, including signing a temporary route educating users of the value of the route in lieu of securing the money and right of way needed to set aside a dedicated route.

Funded by Interact for Health, formerly the Greater Cincinnati Health Foundation, Tri-State Trails is also promoting the completion of the Great Miami Trail from Franklin south to Middletown and Hamilton.

“Then we could see a large loop evolve,” Johnston said.

Tri-State Trails is also promoting trails in Northern Kentucky and a program to calculate trail use, a key to winning grants and other funding.

It is too early in the process to make cost estimates, according to Johnston.

The prospect of the Miami-2-Miami Connector has excited Ken McCall, co-chairman of Bike Centerville, even though the community he advocates for would not be connected to the trail network.

“It would be very attractive to me,” said McCall, who uses existing roads to reach the trail network.

Bike Centerville and Bike Miami Valley are focused on providing trail connections for less confident cyclists, he said.

“It wouldn’t help us. It would be great for those folks down there,” McCall said.

One option McCall and others are advocating for is a continuation of the Iron Horse Trail, a north-south route ending on the north side of Interstate 675. Advocates are working with government officials to extend the trail across the interstate, where it could follow a railroad easement near County Line Road into Warren County.

In February, McCall was in the audience for the Tri-State Trail’s Warren County Forum and huddled with Johnston after the meeting.

“We’ve been trying to look at this at a regional and local level,” Johnston said.