Trails in Indiana

A New Year - New Routes

 Its 2013, and after 25 years of successful advocacy for trail development in the state; beginning in 1997 as THE organized advocate for the Monon Rail Trail in Indianapolis; the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council is broadening its advocacy to include the neighborhoods, communities, developments and mom and pop stores, which have sprung up along a trail or because of it.  Yes the trails do lead to someplace and more often than not it is a great place or a soon to be great place.  Or was the great place there and then the trail found it?  Hmmmmm?  Either way we know that trails and community work together to enhance, socialize, vitalize and even save people’s lives.

In the past we have documented trail development in Indiana, and have even ventured to the Camino de Santiago in Spain via one of our board members.  In Indiana; name a trail or a city, and chances are we have been there and there’s a video on our website about it.  The videos capture the trail experience in several ways.  We will ride the trails and sometimes include local trail riders to get an expert tour.  We will document a trail event such as the Mayor’s Bike Rides here in Indy or the Pumkinvine Bike Ride up in Goshen. We have interviewed the trail visionaries like Diana and Hall Virgil of the B & O, Don Sporleder of South Bend, Jeff Ray of Grant County, and Alyn Bernell of the Monon Legacy. And then we included conversations with the designers like Kevin Osburn, engineers like Alan Hamersly, government leaders like Mark Reynolds, and advocates like Lori Keys to get their perspective and insight on trail development.   We’ve even gone back a century in history to explain the function and purpose of greenway development in the United States with the expertise of nationally known city designers like George Kessler.  The softer side of our love affair with trails was even revealed in our journeys to New Harmony, IN and Fall Creek here in the city.
But now things have finally changed and people mostly ‘get it’ that trails are a health, social, and economic boon to any place that constructs one.  The trails are transforming cities as a response to new needs.  New needs like the Big O (obesity), the Big D (diabetes) and the Big M (mental health). New needs like an aging but really alive Boom generation that wants to age in place.  Or the Millennial Generation---all 80,000,000 of them---who want everything easily accessible from Wi-Fi to Wheaties to Whoop-di Do!  Needs like ameliorating the costly, energy wasting suburban life; or the building and pavement covered urban centers sacrificing what truly makes them livable---green grass, green trees, green spaces---for that other, pervasive green----dollars.  
We began spotlighting efforts to transform cities early in 2011 with our leap into recording presentations from people at the national forefront of creating livable places.  We videographed national game-changer Mia Birk’s Indianapolis presentation:  10 Steps to a Bicycle-Friendly Community:  Lessons from Portland.  When United States Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood came to town we were there to record his imperative about working together without party lines.  
More recently, in November of 2012, we documented the Striding Toward Healthy Communities: Indiana’s Active Transportation Conference held here in Indianapolis.  The gathering was organized by Health By Design, in association with The Alliance for Health Promotion and the Indiana Citizen’s Alliance for Transportation (ICAT), both local, active front line leaders in bringing fresh, different, bold and working ideas to Indianapolis causing us to look at issues in a different way and a new perspective.
Online now is Ellen Dunham-Jones presentation Retrofitting Suburbia---Making Sprawl Sustainable.    She talks about dying malls, underperforming asphalt, Millenials, and the concept of aging in place---some new and some not so new realities looming for cities in the very near future. But she also gives solutions in case studies of what other cities have already done to tackle these issues. 
Next up is Tom Samuels’ out of the box, perhaps controversial viewpoint on how to improve neighborhood walkability; entitled Walk This Way.  He brings a wider scope of conversation on what is best in new development.
We hope these videos and those in the future will bring an expanded awareness in a faster way of what’s out there in creating or recreating livable communities.  We pledge a louder, bolder, stronger voice and conscious for our Indiana community.  
Topics we will consider in the New Year include place making along trails, slow tours, and really alternative transportation.
So what is a route?  Trail experts define a route as a merging of many individual trails into a pathway that leads to a multitude of new places, experiences and opportunities not possible on a single trail.  Happy 2013!    Enjoy the Ride!
Article by Tina Jones