Pleasant Run Cultural Ride


With the end nearing for the USBR #35 project to create a bike route that goes from La Porte to Clarksville, Hoosier Rails to Trails Council (HRTC) started a few years ago to task with the challenges brought by the concept of connecting established trails with routes on streets. USBR #35 takes advantage of the Erie Trail in North Judson, the Nickel Plate in its entirety and parts of the Monon Trail, Cultural Trail, and Pennsy Trail on the east side of Indianapolis. All the rest, except a small portion of the Columbus People Trail, is on roads. This 350 mile, awe-inspiring venture led us to envision an all-new potential of connectivity, associated, of course, with an all-new degree of challenges about safety and suitability.

Going from trails to roads, opens again the long time contention about the unresolved question if biking has to be conceived as a recreational activity or is a way of transportation. What we will see in the next years; an increasing number of bicyclists invading all kind of roads, will make this question futile. But today we still have to deal with some major obstacles which slow down a more extensive use of bicycles in our daily basic activities.

Strictly speaking, I think confidence on biking a road and safety, are the major reasons that hold people back from riding a bike work or shopping. With the increasing miles of bike lanes in our cities, we are getting more used to dealing with bikes in traffic, and I am not referring only to the bikers. Many drivers show by the way they drive, that when they are close to bikers in a road, they have a hard time interpreting the new situation, unprepared to deal with a slower vehicle like a bicycle. This can be dangerous for cars and for bicycles as well as for reckless driving.

To get prepared for what, very soon, will become a very common situation, that we will have to deal with in our daily commuting; cities and communities are developing new ways to educate people on how to manage the entrance of this “new vehicle” in the arena of transportation.

HRTC contribution to this historical change in our society closely follows the experience we had designing the USBR#35 route. We thought to expand the boundaries of an established trail by adding important adjacent districts that could be enjoyed while riding a bike. We call these proposed excursions Cultural Rides.


As a base in our first project we started by using the Pleasant Run Greenway, which is by itself an historical route designed by George Kessler. As it exists now, the trail already has to use two streets, English Avenue and E. Washington Street, to connect the three parts of the greenway. Our intent on designing this route is to bring in two communities that are just touched by the Pleasant Run Greenway; Fountain Square in the south west, and Irvington to north east.



In the fall of 2014, in collaboration with Suzanne Stanis, Director of Education at Indiana Landmarks, we organized a bike tour starting in Garfield Park which followed the Pleasant Run Greenway to Irvington, then made a loop back through Fountain Square. A 14.5 mile easy loop ride spaced out by four speakers who talked about:

The history of Garfield Park by JoEllen Meyers Sharp. [Watch Interviev] How this route relates to Kessler’s work by Tina Jones. [Watch Interviev] The importance of the community of Irvington by Steve Barnett. [Watch Interviev] An overview of what the future will be of these historical marks by Don Colvin. [Watch Interviev]


To extend the boundaries of the trail we used bike lanes and the careful use of secondary roads that allowed the taste of what it means to share a street with cars without having to feel overwhelmed by heavy traffic.

This very successful experience, sustained by dozens of enthusiastic bikers, made us think that this could be easily enjoyed by anybody who wishes to spend half a day visiting a corner of Indianapolis so rich in culture, history and in many ways of authenticity of what our roots are.

Our map and video suggests just some points of interest but the ride proposed has much more to offer. Even Irvington by itself hides many layers of interest, architecture, history, the unique urban typology of the town, or just the discovery of good restaurants or fun shopping. With easy parking the streets along the route, the ride can be planned from anywhere, making for example Irvington the starting point and Fountain Square the destination for lunch, thus making for a pleasant excursion.

The underlying reason to propose this first Cultural Ride, which we hope will be followed by many others, is to see bicycles out there; sharing streets with cars, showing that it is possible to reach places, go to locations, spend time with friends and family while using a bike; to become a true example of alternative transportation.

Share with us your experience to let us improve our effort.


Article by Guido Maregatti


Type of Trail: 
Cultural Ride
Attractive Features: 
Garfield Park, Ellenberg Park, Christian Park, Irvington, Bona Thompson Memorial Library, Brown's Corner Park,
From Keyston Avenue to State Avenue, Prospect Street stint is on street.
North Endpoint (#1) - Specific : 
South Endpoint (#2) – Specific: 
Garfield Park
East endpoint – General: 
Fountain Square

Country Estates Indianapolis Cultural Ride

Map Trails: 


This is our third endeavor in creating a Cultural Ride around Indianapolis in association with Indiana Landmarks.
Each time we take our bicycles and reveal new corners of our city. With the support of the lectures organized by Indiana Landmarks the discovery of the Millionaire Road is an eye-opener into a way of life known only to a select few families in Indianapolis.

The Country Estates located on the Northwest side of the city are the last examples of the luxury life of successful entrepreneurs at the beginning of the last century. The Sommers, Allison, and Wheeler-Stokely mansions overlook Cold Spring Road, once called the Millionaire Road. Of the original tour, organized by Indiana Landmarks, we were not able to include the Sommers mansion which is now a part of the campus of Cold Spring School; an Indianapolis Public School and therefore not open to the public. Fortunately we have the video of the Wendy Ford lecture where we show the beauty of the Sommers mansion's interiors and some of the remains of the structures around the house.

The loop of this Cultural Tour is seven and half miles and begins at the Major Taylor Velodrome Park at 3649 Cold Spring Road. Going south along Cold Spring, it winds through the campus of Marian University before reaching 30th Street. We take advantage of three bikeways that pass by or cross the bridge on 30th Street. To reach the 38th Street and Golden Hill Historic District first we sideline along 30th Street, then the Central Canal Towpath. In our return to the Velodrome Park we chose a different route using a segment of the White River Trail, from H. W. Klausman’s bridge, on 30th Street, up to I-65.

Please be careful, as the video warns, on the Central Canal Towpath after 0.12 miles passed the I-65 Bridge there is an exit on the left to go back on the North White River Parkway East Drive. If you miss it you will end up at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) backyard park. But, since I have done that mistake myself; I can say from my experience that you won't have any more access to the White River Parkway. So once at the IMA you have two options, go back to the Canal Towpath looking for the exit, or go through the Indianapolis Museum of Art at the main exit on the 38th Street eastbound.



The only mansion actually available to visit inside is James Allison’s estate known as Riverdale. Here, staff of the university welcome you, providing the opportunity to experience a very exquisite example of the taste of the high society of a century ago. [Watch Deborah Lawrence lecture] Don’t forget to spend some time in the garden beside the house; a fine example of nationally known historic landscape architect Jens Jensen work in defining a Midwestern native landscape. [Watch David Roth lecture]

Another stop I really enjoyed was at the Wheeler-Stokely mansion. Since it is undergoing remodeling, it is not possible to go inside other than the entrance hall where one can have a small taste of the interiors. But what caught my attention was the remnants of what once was the huge park-like estate grounds surrounding the mansion. The pagoda is still there, and some other buildings are visible showing the typical attention to details of the early years of the last century’s Art Deco Era. [Watch Caitlin Selby lecture]

Klausman’s bridge on 30th Street is another stop deserving our attention. A beautiful architectural structure clearly designed for more than vehicular passage as evidenced by the many outlooks this fascinating discovery offers through all of the views it offers. It also gives the opportunity to oversee the historic Riverside Park and after watching Tina Jones’s lecture about George Kessler master plan, we can really appreciate and value the importance of having public estates where all the people can enjoy nature and beauty.

Golden Hill, a country estate built by David Parry in 1904, remains today; a secluded neighborhood with beautiful properties and nice landscapes; has at its heart a little of history connecting with the roots of our land. Watch Dr. Becky Feldman share with us the finding of the Totem Pole in Golden Hill.



Riding Indy's Park System - Cultural Ride


2014-12-01 The Bicycle Tour of a Living Legacy within Our City The Indiana Landmarks’ inaugural Kessler Living Legacy Bicycle Tour of Fall Creek was a new way for Landmarks to get people out into history, enjoy some exercise and learn something about our heritage, all in three hours. The tour was doubly unusual in that it focused on the work of a Landscape Architect---the designer of the land; rather than on the many historic structures and buildings usually promoted. The man whose work was being highlighted was George Kessler, the national expert in American Town Planning. And his work; his design for our city---for its vitality and livability---that was laid out with initial construction beginning more than 100 years ago.

  Indiana Landmarks expertise in promotion and education of the richness and lessons of our history was again evident in the format of the bicycle tour. Stationed at appropriate locations and times, four speakers talked in depth about the Kessler system and its personal and regional impact. They aided in understanding the genius of the place; but even more so; how it has affected human lives for more than a century and how its enduring design features have laid the course and guided the future of the city to continue to be livable. The first speaker, Tina Jones is the co-author of the National Register of Historic Places nomination of the Indianapolis Park and Boulevard System Historic District (“the Kessler Plan”). She was stationed at the southeast corner of Fall Creek Boulevard and Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. The location is significant because it is where the construction of the Kessler designed system began, and the multi-functional genius of the designed system is revealed. Jones gave an overview of the system; explaining its physiographic basis; the plan’s historic context in Indianapolis’ quest to become world-class; and then described some of the design details the tour members would see along the route.

  The second speaker, Ron Taylor, was located at Kessler Park on the southeast corner of Fall Creek Parkway North Drive and Meridian Street. Ron is a Principal at the landscape design firm of Taylor Seifker Williams Design Group. Ron’s company is preparing the 2014 Indianapolis Full Circle Plan---the 20-year vision plan update for the entire Indianapolis Greenway System. He spoke of the future of the Kessler Plan and how the original historic plan influences and guides the development of the new plan.

  Tina Jones spoke again at the third speaker site overlooking University Park from the steps of the Indiana War Memorial. The emphasis of her talk was the importance of the nomination of the “Kessler Plan” to the National Register of Historic Places with national significance, and the highest level of importance---a National Landmark—of which University Park has attained. She spoke of current threats to the park by well-intentioned groups unaware of its national significance as a work of a master of American urban design and the impact of those decisions to one of our prime cultural jewels that define Indianapolis’ identity and uniqueness.

  The culmination of the Fall Creek Bicycle Tour and speaker stops was at the Taggart Memorial in Riverside Park. Not only is the memorial important as a tribute to the man who considered the father of the Indianapolis park system; but also as the purposeful designed terminus of the sight line and drive along Burdsal Parkway to the largest park in the Kessler system. Speaking at the Memorial were James Fadely, the author of the Thomas Taggart biography; and Peggy Gamlin the neighborhood leader of the Riverside Civic League within which the park is located. Fadely spoke of Taggart’s national and local influence and his vision for a livable Indianapolis through the purchase of large tracts of parkland. Peggy Gamlin finished the tour by speaking of the personal impact of the park and how Taggart’s purchase has inspired and influenced her life.

  Prior to the bicycle tour, a first look of Kessler’s designed Indianapolis Park & Boulevard System reveals a simple system of linear parks following five of our natural waterways and connecting to our three largest historic parks arrayed throughout the city limits. For most of the population here in Indy, the lands along our parkways and greenways [Pleasant Run, Pogues Run, Fall Creek, and White River] appear “natural”---just like Mother Nature had planned. However, the nuances of a purposely-designed place; the skill of the craftsman builders, the quality of the materials, the intentional application of beautiful details, the cerebral experience; the artistry and genius that elevates the functional use to the work of a master become evident on the ground, on the bicycle tour.

  According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a simple definition of a legacy is something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past. A richer more meaningful explanation is located on the Legacy Project website where a Legacy is about life and living. It's about learning from the past, living in the present, and building for the future. 

George Kessler’s design of the city of Indianapolis is the essence of this description. Take a (bike) ride and see for yourself!


Article by Tina Jones