Off and Running: The B & O Trail
As previously promised, Hoosier Rails to Trails Council will attempt to answer a number of inquiries about local trails presented at the Earth Day celebration at White River State Park in Indianapolis this year.
Between 200 and 300 visitors who stopped by our booth received information about rail -trails and other types of trails and the HRTC website and many grabbed a copy of the latest HRTC newsletter.
The most frequently asked about trail was the B & O Trail on Indianapolis' extreme west side.
A very short segment of the B & O trails opens with pavement on the west side of the Raceway Road (also known as County Line Road or 1100 East), that marks the Hendricks/Marion County line, just about a block and a half north of 21st Street (also known as County Road 200North).
This segment must have caught the eye of the curious who got on the trail only to see it disappear into undergrowth after a thousand feet and wondered about it.
Since Earth Day, suspenseful events have unfolded in this chapter of the historic B &O Railroad in central Indiana, and into happy news for trail lovers.
Development of the trail has begun again at a rapid pace, or at least what passes as rapid, considering that the purchase of 16 miles of the B&O across Hendricks County, only finalized in December 2009, took 16 years to accomplish.
May 11, 2010, witnessed groundbreaking ceremonies for the paving of three miles of the B&O from State Road 267 in Brownsburg, just north of County Road 350North. The construction resulted from fundraising and trail design going on during the time of the purchase negotiations.
The new trail construction will also include building a bridge across the east fork of White Lick Creek, almost ½ mile south of the O’Reilly Raceway Park, formerly known as Raceway Park. The wooded area, bounded on either side by federally protected wetland will make a scenic promenade.
This three mile paving of the B&O eastward from State Road 267 in Brownsburg will end at County Road 300 North. Due to a gap in land ownership, trail goers will have to follow a mile long detour along 300 North eastward to County Road 1000, and then south one-third mile until they link up with the B & O again and continue eastward on the trail to the “end of the line” of pavement, at Raceway Road (County Line Road).
A green light atop a railroad semaphore marks the trail here, a former signal signifying “clear travel” to railroad engineers riding their magic carpet of steel. A similar semaphore will decorate the new trail head at State Road 267.
Across Raceway Road, or County Line Road, the unpaved part of the B & O continues, until Tansel Road, currently gated, but still accessible by foot, for about 1000 feet, unpaved, across Tansel and then on grass through Drakes Landing housing addition.
Anyone familiar with rail to trail conversion knows how hard it can be when unyielding property owners can make conversion of rusty rail to public trail difficult. Portions of the B & O have undergone the same plight as complex land rights issues allowed for parts of the old right of way to go to individual land owners.
Funding woes have limited trail development to walking and biking. The B & O Trail Association, the community organization now in charge of the trail and responsible for all of these trail developments, hopes to add a bridle path along the route as funds become available.
Article by Mario Vian and Richard Vonnegut, photos by Mario Vian