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Griffith-Merrillville trail connection nearly complete

The west end of a newly-completed section of the C&O Greenway is seen on Jan. 27, 2024.
Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Media
The west end of a newly-completed section of the C&O Greenway is seen on Jan. 27, 2024.

It's now possible to ride a bike from just north of Southlake Mall to Griffith, Highland and Hammond using a connected series of trails.

Crews are putting the finishing touches on the C&O Greenway extension. It connects what had been an isolated trail between Taft and Mississippi in Merrillville to the Oak Savannah and Erie Lackawanna trails in Griffith.

Mitch Barloga is the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission's active transportation planner. "At NIRPC, what we're trying to accomplish is a way of getting all of these communities connected into the core network, and Merrillville will be part of that now, with the extension of the C&O," Barloga recently told Lakeshore Public Media.

The 2.8-mile connection is actually two concurrent projects led by Merrillville and the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department. Both got funding from the state's Next Level Trails program.

Barloga calls the extension "a real shot in the arm for the community." "There are some areas around the trail that go west to the [Oak Ridge Prairie] that could be developed into possible residential and — who knows — commercial or mixed use," Barloga added.

The trail extension itself is largely complete, but a signalized crosswalk at Taft still hadn't been installed, as of late January. Officials hope to have an official ribbon cutting in the spring.