To the editor:

To the editor:

The extension of the bike trail in Heath and Licking Township has numerous advantages for local residents. The Thomas J. Evans Foundation and Gib Reese should be commended for their willingness to create such a useful recreational amenity.

First, any ownership issues should be resolved as soon as possible. If that entails a court hearing, then get it scheduled and determine who is the rightful owner of the rail line and how the rail bed may be used in the future.

After ownership finally is resolved, residents should consider the following advantages:

For health, recreation, transportation and a means by which to save some gas money, the bike trail would provide great opportunities for safe exercise activities, safe transportation to the Heath City Water Park, Hoback Park, Heath High School and to Lakewood High School, as well as the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority and the larger, more extensive bike trail throughout the county.

As residents of Licking County, we again are being offered a wonderful recreational gift, paid for by a private foundation. The city of Columbus is proposing millions of dollars for a bike trail -- all at the taxpayers' expense.

This project would get rid of an old, poorly maintained railroad. This has been a concern of many Heath residents because of the condition of the rail cars and crossings and the lack of maintenance along the bridges and rail bed.

It's true that a few safety concerns have surfaced in the long history of the bike trail in Newark, Granville, Johnstown, Pataskala and Heath. Such concerns, however, shouldn't be enough to warrant stopping this project from moving forward.

Residents are aware that the bike trail is made safer by its frequent use. Moreover, a nearby bike trail improves a home's value.

Many Licking Township residents use the bike trail in Heath and at Hoback Park. They enjoy the ride through park. However, they ride their bikes to Hoback Park via Southfork Road, as opposed to a much safer route that would exist after the paving of the bike path that runs along Southfork.

Many Heath residents ride their bikes on Fieldson Drive because there are no sidewalks. Now they can safely access the bike trail and not be subjected to an unsafe ride on city streets.

The bike trail is a great asset to our community. It already has received the "Way to Go!" award from the Ohio Department of Transportation. It is the "way to go" for health, safety, transportation, recreation and obvious environmental reasons.

We are fortunate to get this opportunity. Let's take advantage of this gift to all residents of Licking County.

Dan Dupps