Mayor cites accomplishments, outlines plans for continued trail development

Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters discusses the state of the city with members of the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Feb. 7. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

A new park paying tribute to the Erie Railroad and a pedestrian bridge over U.S.-24 could be in Huntington's future as city leaders continue to develop a network of trails throughout the community.

Mayor Brooks Fetters outlined those plans and more as he presented his State of the City address to members of the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Feb. 7.

The city is coming off a good year, Fetters said, and he wants to build on the successes of 2013 as he gets more community residents involved in his quest to make Huntington an attractive place to live.

The city has some challenges, he admits - a railroad running through the middle of town; the Little River, which essentially serves as a drainage ditch for southwest Fort Wayne; and blighted buildings throughout the community.

"Is it perfect?" he asked. "No. But can it be better than it is?"

Fetters and the city's new community engagement volunteer coordinator, Allison Timbrook, hope to enlist the help of organizations, families and individuals to help provide the manpower to make the community better.

The volunteer program, "For the Love of Huntington," seeks people with varied skills and passions to help in a variety of ways, from repainting the city's candy cane Christmas decorations to repairing picnic tables, Fetters said.

"What are you going to do for the love of this place?" he asked.

Both the pedestrian bridge across U.S.-24, which would run roughly from the soccer field at Huntington University to the Super 8 motel across the highway, are part of a trails plan laid out in 2007.

Although both of those items are in the future - Fetters hopes to apply in 2018 for state funding to build the pedestrian bridge - some new portions of the trail are already under construction as part of a southwest side sewer project.

Projects Fetters plans to accomplish in 2014 include spending $1 million to repave city streets, including reconstructing Jade Road and replacing the silver maples along that road.

He also plans to continue revamping curbs at intersections to make them accessible to people with handicaps. Renovations to city parks to make them more accessible will also continue.

Accomplishments during 2013, Fetters said, included implementing a combined city-county emergency dispatch system; turning the city's finances around, following several years of revenue loss, by reducing the number of city employees and streamlining jobs; improving neighborhoods by demolishing blighted buildings; attracting new businesses and business expansions; and instituting a farmers' market in downtown Huntington.