Better footing

Indiana project to improve
state’s walking trails

Communities would still be
responsible for creating them

By Michele Turner
Contributing Writer

(July 2006) – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels wants Hoosiers to “take a hike.” He means that in a nice way. In April, Daniels called for plans to significantly improve Indiana’s trails system.

Kyle Hupfer

Photo by Michele Turner

Indiana DNR Director Kyle Hupfer
(right with back turned) discusses the
Indiana Trails project at a June 22 meeting.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has worked with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to draft the Indiana Trails Plan. This plan was presented May 31 at a statewide summit. Regional follow-up sessions for public contribution were announced. The first of these was held June 15 at the Clifty Inn in Madison.
DNR Director Kyle Hupfer and INDOT Director of Greenways and Bikeways, Ray Irvin, took questions from the public on the plan. Also attending were state Sen. Jim Lewis, City of Madison Parks Director Dave Munier, representatives of Madison’s Heritage Trail committee and several members of the Madison Area Bicycle Club. Julie Rubio, Heritage Trail secretary said, “We’re excited that the state and Governor Daniels have given trails a boost in the arm.”
This plan is a significant move for Indiana, officials said. At the May 31 Trail Summit, Daniels announced that the state government will commit at least $10 million of new funding to kick off the state trails initiative. The new state funding will supplement the approximately $10 million already allotted annually from Transportation Enhance-ment (TE) and other federal funding for trail projects.  
According to the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council’s website, “While every state now receives and disburses TE funds, such a voluntary supplement by the state has typically come only from renowned pro-trail states, such as Wisconsin or Ohio.”
Hupfer gave three primary reasons for the desired improvement of the state’s trails system. “This is a quality of life issue first and foremost.” People enjoy these trails for walking, biking and in-line skating. Secondly, they have the potential to promote economic development.

Kyle Hupfer & Julie Rubio

Photo by Michele Turner

Heritage Trail secretary Julie Rubio of
Madison (left) poses with Indiana
DNR Director Kyle Hupfer. She calls the
project a “boost in the arm.”

They may increase property values near the trails; lead to greater tourism; lead to new restaurants, lodging, bike shops, etc; and have a positive impact on the health of a community’s citizens and therefore decrease health care costs for incoming business.
This leads to the third major reason: “We’ve got to become a healthier state,” Hupfer said. Indiana is consistently at the top of the list for healthcare costs. Obesity and all its health-related issues are a big problem in Indiana.
There are other value added features of trails. One is using the trails for “co-located infrastructure.” This would involve combining utility corridors with the trails. These corridors could connect towns throughout rural Indiana for sharing services such as waste water treatment.
Irvin of INDOT, said, “Much of the state is still on septic. Such areas could be connected through utility corridors to waste water treatment plants in larger towns.”
According to the plan, waste water facilities in one community and fresh water facilities in another could support an entire region at a fraction of the cost communities now spend having to develop and maintain their own facilities.
“I’m glad to hear that the state is looking into this possibility,” said Jim Turner, Utilities Manager for Madison. “Because of our location on the river, Madison has the ability to produce water that could be sold to other communities who have a real problem with water supply.”
DNR’s Hupfer calls the Indiana Trails Plan a “mechanism for statewide connectivity.” Currently, communities generally work on their trails either locally or regionally, and rarely do they connect cities or counties.
“This is a bottom up process,” Hupfer said. Locals will still have to build their trails. The state will assist with the interconnectors. If communities know where the connectors are going to be, they can design their future trails accordingly.

• For more information about the Indiana Trails Plan, visit the DNR website at: www.in.gov/dnr/trailsplan or call Susanna Arvin, DNR Outdoor Recreation Planner, at (317) 232-4069.

Back to July 2006 Articles.



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