Complex process for new Hamilton bike path finishes with land transfer

The city and CSX railroad finally closed Friday on the properties that will be needed for Hamilton’s proposed 2.96-mile Beltline bicycling/hiking path that will loop around the city’s West Side.

But because it took so long to finalize the transfer of all the complicated-shaped parcels created about a century ago, construction likely won’t start until next year, said city Clerk Nick Garuckas, who has been guiding the Beltline project.

The closing happened Friday for the long stretch of properties at a cost of $791,000.

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The Butler County commissioners transferred two tiny parcels to the city earlier in the week that once were owned by the Hamilton Belt Line Railroad Company, to make sure there would be no ownership confusion in the future.

The rail line used to serve the now-closed Champion Paper mill on North B Street, which is being transformed into a gigantic indoor sports complex and convention center called Spooky Nook at Champion Mill.

Phase I of the bike path will be about a half-mile piece between Eaton and Cleveland avenues. That piece abuts Wilson Park and its sprayground, as well as the West Side Little League. It ends near the Flub’s ice cream shop.

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People who live near the project have been looking forward to it, as a way to give them a fun place to walk and ride bikes, or to rollerblade. The line eventually will extend to the new sports complex that should be finished in 2021.

“The City and CSX have been working through any potential discrepancy or potential title issue related to these properties,” Garuckas said.

In doing so, they discovered complicated ownership histories involving the Miami Conservancy District and the county.

“Our respective legal counsels though it best to have the Miami Conservancy District and Butler County Quit Claim Deed to the City their respective rights to some of these parcels,” Garuckas said. “This clears up potential chain of title issues in the area between all entities and will allow the City to close on the Hamilton Beltline Property.”

Hamilton won two grants from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that will finance the purchase and project — one for $503,400 and another for $59,426; plus another from the Ohio Public Works Commission for $155,790.

As part of the grant conditions, the city must provide 25 percent in matching funds.

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One advantage to performing the construction in phases is the ability to seek additional grants for each phase. When officials discussed the project with residents early in the process, citizens urged them to seek as much financial help as possible for the project.

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