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A new walking bridge and trail built here is just one example of how this bedroom community 15 miles southwest of South Bend is reinventing itself.
The grant-funded bridge, which opened earlier this fall, spans Potato Creek to link a growing neighborhood with North Liberty Elementary School. It is part of a quarter-mile trail that gives youngsters a safe route to school.
Families in the Potato Creek Crossing subdivision, meanwhile, can take the path to walk and bike to the downtown area. Before, there wasn't a safe way to do that because the road leading to the neighborhood doesn't have a bike path.
Kim Murray, who moved into the subdivision with her family a decade ago, said the bridge has been a major improvement.
"It extends the ability to exercise and walk to town without going out on the highway. My husband uses it to walk the dog. And I use it when I want to go to Subway and the bakery," she said, adding that she thinks the path will encourage more people to buy homes in the neighborhood.
Vicki Kitchen, North Liberty's clerk-treasurer, said the town has planned trail projects that improve the quality of life here. It received another state grant, for example, to build a trail next year that will provide better access to the North Liberty Youth League baseball diamonds.
"We think trail systems are up-and-coming," Kitchen said. "Since we are more of a bedroom community, to lure people to this town you need amenities and green living."
North Liberty has been successful applying for grants to fund a variety of projects.
The walking bridge project was paid for by a $450,000 grant from the Indiana Safe Routes to School Program that included a 20 percent match from the town.
Several other projects were made possible when North Liberty was named a participant in the state's three-year Stellar Communities program in 2015. That status helped it quickly get grant funding.
Notable "stellar projects" in the planning stages include a facade restoration program for downtown business, a trail from the town to Potato Creek State Park and a splash pad for children at the town park.
Next year, the downtown area will get a major makeover as a result of a $2 million grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Fifteen businesses will have their facades renovated. Other projects call for a new parking lot, way-finding signs and improvements to Shamrock Alley, which is an outdoor space used for community events.
The town also used its "stellar" status to help line up funding to expand Shamrock Estates, a senior housing complex owned by a private developer.
A $750,000 state grant covered half of the $1.5 million project, which calls for building five duplexes at the complex to double its housing units. The project started this summer and is expected to be done by June 2018.
Kitchen said North Liberty's "stellar" status has allowed it to accelerate the timetable for projects that would have otherwise been on hold for several years.
"We're on a fast pace," she said.
Story written by Ted Booker with the South Bend Tribune Article published on Dec 26, 2017