By Wade Coggeshall
AVON — The first phase of the White Lick Creek Trail is now open here, and the town council has approved a scoping study to extend it to Brownsburg.
The first part of the trail, built with federal funds, is now open to pedestrian traffic. It extends from the iron truss bridge near Avon Softball Park to the pavilion center in Washington Township Park.
At its Nov. 15 meeting, the town council approved a joint contract with Brownsburg to study extending the trail from Washington Township Park to Williams Park in Brownsburg. Avon completed a similar study in 2010 that would connect the trail to the Plainfield Recreation Center.
Each town is paying $10,000 for the current study.
Ryan Cannon, Avon's public works director, says a scoping study isn't any actual design or construction, but a way to specify where officials want something to be.
"It will talk about the actual location, which side of the creek, identify a path that's constructable," he said. "Showing a line on the map is good for a place-holder, but it doesn't protect the property and doesn't ensure we know where we have to do it. There could be constraints that, if we don't know that now, could prevent it from being built. It's really to protect the corridor for the future."
Such a study also helps guard land from other types of development and gives town officials more leverage in seeking grants.
"It shows we're serious and gives specific construction costs and phasing," Cannon said.
Extending White Lick Creek Trail from Avon to Plainfield - which is four and a half miles - is projected to cost $4.5 million. Cannon says it's optimistic to expect the trail to connect all three towns in the next decade.
"It all depends on funding," he said. "If we can get some grants, it may go faster. The council is committed to wanting to do this. Now it just comes down to finding the funds to build it."
Residents have shown interest in the initiative. Cannon says in recent updates to Avon's parks plan, nearly 100 percent of public feedback has advocated for expanding the town's trail system.
"The direction we've been going in is based on that feedback," Cannon said.