Coming soon: First part of Hamilton’s Beltline biking/hiking path

By the end of this year, people should be able to bike and hike along the first segment of Hamilton’s Beltline path.

Construction on the path’s Phase I, about a half-mile-long piece between Cleveland and Eaton avenues, should start and end this year. Nearly all the paperwork for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources is completed, so the work should soon be ready to be bid out for the construction, officials said.

“We’re still very hopeful that we will actually have construction on it this year,” said City Clerk Nick Garuckas. “We’re still thinking that by fall of 2020, we’ll have Phase I done.”

Ultimately, the path is to be a 2.96-mile asphalt strip that will extend in a large curve from the former Champion Paper mill to near Millville Avenue.

The update about the nearing construction came as good news to Mike Reuter, a resident of Hamilton’s Prospect Hill neighborhood, which takes in the former paper mill that is being redeveloped into the gigantic indoor sports complex and convention center called Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill.

“I look forward to it,” Reuter said. “I think it’ll connect downtown Hamilton with surrounding neighborhoods, and it’ll be, one, a healthy way to get around, but two, it opens up more opportunities for businesses along that corridor, whether it’s bike rentals along that corridor.”

It will be good to have better connections among the neighborhoods, added Reuter, who has lived in Prospect Hill five years and works nearby at Realty First and said he spends “a decent amount” of time on the Great Miami River bike path.

Garuckas said the city was putting the finishing touches on the ‘Categorical Exclusion’ form required by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. That’s a checklist of mostly environmental issues that inquires whether wetlands or endangered species might be affected by the project.

“We believe we have finished all the information that ODNR is going to need to approve the CE,” Garuckas said. City staff had to contact various state agencies and consultants in providing the required information, and expected to send it to the state this week, he said.

“Once they get that information, they’re going to evaluate it, and if it meets their standards, they’re going to send us the actual contract for the monies we were awarded a couple years ago for Phase I,” Garuckas said. “At that time, they’ll release our funds, and we can then get into the actual construction of it.”

In the meantime, the city has been doing necessary environmental studies and has designed the work.

“We would have been done already, but with COVID-19 and people working from home, there was some survey work that took a little bit longer than everyone anticipated,” Garuckas said. That all is done.

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