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A new $119,194 People Trail project at Noblitt Park will relocate and replace a section of the trail closed for about 19 months by river damage.
The former section of the trail meandered through the woods west of the railroad tracks in Noblitt Park, following Flat Rock River south until the trail entered Mill Race Park. However, flooding washed away parts of the trail and buried others under several feet of silt, said Ben Wagner, the city parks and recreation director.
John Wischmeier, an avid cyclist and runner who has been using the People Trails for more than 30 years, said he has missed the washed-out section of the trail with the relaxing sounds of the river and the thick tree cover. He said that depending on the time of the year, he used that section of the trail about three times a week and enjoyed being able to run a loop between Noblitt and Mill Race parks.
“It kind of gives you the impression of going out to Brown County and trail running,” Wischmeier said.
The new trail section will be east of the railroad tracks but still will dip into wooded areas and over wetlands before rejoining with the old trail at the northern trailhead.
“It will complete the loop in Noblitt that has been broken by flood washout for so long,” Wagner said.
Wagner said the park floods about four times a year. Although the new trail area of the park does not flood as deeply or as seriously as the former trail location, Casey Ritz, the parks department maintenance manager, said the new trail will be solidly built including a 120-foot-long and 10-foot-wide boardwalk and foot bridge made of pre-engineered concrete with a tan, wood-like surface. The approaches to the boardwalk and bridge will be asphalt, he said. The entire new section will be about 1,000 feet long.
Wagner said the work also will remove the trail stub that leads under the northern railroad bridge, although people still are welcome to hike through that area even without a trail.
The parks department will not work to maintain the area west of the railroad tracks.
“We are just letting nature take it back,” Wagner said.
The city first began working to reopen the trail in February 2012 after it was destroyed, Ritz said. The trail replacement has taken longer than anticipated because of the time needed to secure permits for work in a floodway from the state Department of National Resources and state Department of Environmental Management, he said.
Funding for the project is coming from economic development income tax revenues. The work is being performed by Monroe LLC of Nashville, one of six bidders on the project.
Ritz said the parks department has not used Monroe before, but the company has done similar work in other communities and came highly recommended. The contractor began work on the boardwalk and footbridge last week, and the trail is expected to reopen in late October or early November, Ritz said.
The land for Noblitt Park was donated to the city by the Q.G. Noblitt family, and work clearing trees began 50 years ago, according to The Republic archives.
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