Trails in Indiana

The New Frontier Along Rail Trails - Living Museums of Our Natural and Cultural Past


Peninsula prarie grass in Star City. Prairie grass in Birmingham and Denver.

We want to start this New Year with you by sharing an experience we had last October that we think can reveal new reasons for appreciating the importance of trails; but also new ways on how to relate, enjoy, and spend time on a trail.

Taking a chance on pending bad weather on our way to Winamac to attend the dedication of the Peninsula Prairie Grass remnant organized by the Friends of the Panhandle Pathway, Mario and I stopped in Denver, IN to talk to a friend of the Midwest prairies. Dr. Musselman and his wife, c2002, were able to preserve a small portion of the Prairie in Birmingham, Miami County, near the Nickel Plate Trail. So it was a perfect opportunity for us to get to know more about this passion in preserving the natural heritage of our land.




We learned that most of these prairie remnants containing the original structure of the soil that was present in the 1800s are still available for our viewing thanks to the railroads with their corridors of lands that had not been cultivated since then.

It is exciting to see that after two centuries the history repeats itself with the trail associations succeeding the railroad companies to restore and maintain these last remnants of prairie that Tom Post (DNR Regional Ecologist) classifies as historically important since it is the habitat that our ancestors found when they first came into this land.


A striking example of Midwest Prairie in Chesterton Porter County, IN.

The trail organizations started the process a long time ago to bring back lands that had been badly compromised by heavy abuses of uncontrolled industrial production. We think the next natural step for these organizations is to follow the example of the Friends of the Panhandle Pathway; of Dr. Musselman and his wife; and Diane Vonnegut who more than 10 years ago fought and succeeded to get a grant for the protection of remnants of the prairie in Birmingham, IN.

The trails transform abandoned lands ready to be absorbed in the productive cycle, instead into protected lands that can preserve a very rich habitat of plants, animals and insects. As we see with the prairie, a natural resource that fades into our own history, there are so many other features that we discover going through trails, like architecture, ecology, geology, and botany; in one word the essence of the heritage our own country.

Can we imagine the trail system of our State becoming the most extensive open air Museum of the history of Indiana? What a good way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of our great state! (article by Guido Maregatti)