LAPORTE — Clear Lake is becoming a centerpiece in LaPorte, with an upcoming trail extension and other improvements to the shoreline.
The work scheduled to begin in October is the latest in a series of projects turning the lakes in the city into more of an economic driver and enhancing the quality of life in the city.
A trail on Lakeshore Drive beside Stone Lake and a nearby kayak launch, along with a boardwalk on the southern edge of Clear Lake, are among the recent water-related enhancements.
Others include the Chessie Trail that begins at Pine Lake, which has long been a major attraction for recreational boating and fishing.
“We want to be the capital of quality of life in Indiana,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.
Dermody said Clear Lake will play a significant role in the ongoing transformation of the city built on manufacturing because of its close proximity to the downtown.
Two hundred resort-type apartments beside Clear Lake are presently going up.
Future plans include a pedestrian bridge over the Norfolk and Southern railroad tracks from Clear Lake to the downtown.
“Between our natural resources, our parks, our trails, we will be the destination for anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors and live a healthy life,” Dermody said.
City Engineer Nick Minich said the current trail going about one-third of the way around Clear Lake will be extended to form a loop around the body of water.
The trail extension will have a mostly asphalt surface with signs containing information about the history of Clear Lake and the surrounding area once dominated by heavy industry.
He said the loop trail will also be connected to the Chessie Trail which now ends at nearby NewPorte Landing.
Eventually, the Chessie Trail will be extended to the downtown and double back toward Soldiers Memorial Park.
Minich said fishing piers in different spots around Clear Lake and native species planted along the shoreline are included in the project.
Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said Clear Lake has never been as highly regarded as Pine and Stone lakes but that is changing.
The lake was once a source of discharges from Allis Chalmers, which closed in the 1980s, and is too shallow for motor boats.
“It’s just very gratifying to finally see us loving Clear Lake just as much,” he said.
The enhancements would not be possible without a $2.2 million grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte paying the entire cost.
Maria Fruth, president and CEO of the foundation, said the project reflects the group’s mission of LaPorte County being among the 10 healthiest counties in the state by 2030 from encouraging people to get outside and engage in physical activity.
She said nearly $6.5 million has been awarded by the foundation for similar projects in the city since 2017.
“These investments keep bringing us closer to the goal,” Fruth said.