A compact aggregate surface, shown here on a trail in Spencerville, will be used to replace the asphalt surface currently on the Van Wert Reservoir Trail. (Photo submitted)
A compact aggregate surface, shown here on a trail in Spencerville, will be used to replace the asphalt surface currently on the Van Wert Reservoir Trail. (Photo submitted)

VAN WERT – Those who have visited the Van Wert Reservoir Trails have probably noticed the dire state they are in. One local runner is looking to work with local organizations to rid the trail of potholes and cracks by rehabilitating the 3.65 miles of asphalt with an aggregate surface.

Justin Dickman, concerned citizen and Van Wert 4-Mile creator, said an aggregate surface will work just as well as the current asphalt surface at 25 percent of the cost.

Dickman and a workgroup consisting of organizations such as Wert County/City Parks Department, the City of Van Wert, Van Wert Health, Rotary, Van Wert County Foundation, and local business people, have been discussing the future of the reservoir trails.

“That surface is currently asphalt and in a very deteriorated state,” said Dickman. “We’ve reached out to three engineering firms to look at it and give us quotes for different options. For us to re-asphalt it with the shape that it’s in, it would cost between $925,000 and $1.3 million. That’s not really economically viable for us to do.”

A composite aggregate surface is estimated to cost $250,000 which would also include monies to fix the drainage issue on the south reservoir, new signage, and tearing out the old, overgrown exercise equipment.

In comparison to asphalt, an aggregate surface is softer on joints, durable under heavy use, doesn’t collect heat making it safer for dog’s paws, and is safer for wheeled users including bicycles and strollers.

In order to create the aggregate surface, the current concrete will be ground up and placed as a “base layer” that is compacted. Then a fine, aggregate surface will be placed over that.

Dickman said that to determine what kind of surface to use, surrounding trails and park districts were contacted, many of which, such as the Spencerville park district, use an aggregate surface.

“It’s something other park districts have found very successful,” said Dickman of the aggregate surface. “Approximately 6,000 people utilize Hiestand Woods and the reservoir a year with the cross country meets there. You can’t go out there during daylight hours and not see someone walking, running, or biking. All of those activities are going to be possible in the future, it’s just with a different surface.”

In order to pay for the rehabilitation, the group working on the project will seek funding from local organizations, matching grants, and local donors. Money has already been raised through the Van Wert 4-Mile and has gone into an account at the Van Wert County Foundations called the “Van Wert Recreation and Trails Fund.”

During the Oct. 28 City Council meeting, Safety Service Director Jay Fleming asked City Council to allocate $20,000 for the project as well as ongoing maintenance.

Dickman said that the aggregate surface will be much more cost-effective to maintain for the parks department.

The original trails at the Van Wert Reservoir were put in 1993. Additional trails were added around the mid-2000s. Since then, there has been work done to patch issues, but now the surface is at the point where it needs fully re-rehabilitated.

Dickman said he believes that the community could get 20 years out of an aggregate surface with regular maintenance. The hills on the south reservoir, however, will still be asphalt due to the grade. Engineers advised that even if the trails were fully repaved with asphalt, within a few winters they would be unsafe again due to the number of potholes.

The overall plan for the project is to eventually connect the reservoir trails to the bike path and even to a regional trail. Currently, Van Wert only has 10 miles of trails.

“If you look at economic development and you try to attract, recruit, and retain a workforce and talented people, there are a couple of things that businesses and industries look at, and parks and recreation are a major aspect of that,” said Dickman. “There is a need for us to invest in our community, and if we don’t do that I don’t know how we attract people under the age of 50 to come here and for people under the age of 50 to stay here."