Trails in Indiana

Town of Plainfield = Great Quality of Life

Two years ago, we produced a video about the extensive trail system constructed in Plainfield, Indiana; a significant achievement for a small town. Since then, we have been curious about the effect on the community of this major effort and what new projects have been undertaken to keep developing this infrastructure. The discovery is quite remarkable; Greenways paved the ground on which to transform the way of life of an entire population.

Over the years, we have had a chance to talk to people from all over Indiana about trails and their impact on the economic, social and physical health of their city or town. What we have learned is that Indiana is putting forth huge efforts toward creating a green and friendly environment to entice corporations, businesses, and large segments of the population---particularly the Millenials---to move here. And what we are pleasantly realizing is that quality of life has become for the cities and towns of our State the key element for their future prosperity.

Plainfield, a town of 23,000 habitants, is a leader in this movement that began by creating a municipal team wholly supported by the population to build the town in an organic way.

The town has taken advantage of historic opportunities, “low hanging fruit,” and one huge facility addition that outstandingly has proven the oft quoted prediction: “If you build it, they will come.”

Several projects in the last few years have solidified the ability of the residents to connect with one another. The participatory decision-making process enabled all of the citizens to feel that they had a hand in making Plainfield a better place to live.

After the conversion of the historic Vandalia railroad corridor to a rail trail and the addition of the White Lick Creek Trail, the town has built a robust trail system that encircles the city and provides linkages to other east west trails and destinations.

The next natural step has been the creation of the Plainfield Recreation and Aquatic Center, 651 N. Vestal Road, a place for a variety of physical activities, but also a social point of reference for all the citizenry. The town recently added the adjacent Splash Island Family Waterpark a 187,308 square foot outdoor facility. The success of this center is in its numbers, 500,000 visits per year!

The arguably easy projects that could deliver more “bang for buck” for connecting and unifying the city were identified through a town-wide sidewalk and accessibility assessment. Short distance gaps and missing universally accessible sidewalks locations were determined and prioritized for construction. The city also funded the US 40 Streetscape Master Plan. The document identified the historic character of the city and provided design guidelines to maintain this unifying, overall identity along America’s and Plainfield’s Main Street; the Old National Road. Current projects in developing a more livable environment include building accessible side-walks with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) ramps at each street crossing, remodeling Plainfield’s downtown through façade and street improvements, and wisely prioritizing the maintenance of these structures including the Aquatic Center.

In less than a decade Plainfield has achieved the goal to be a sustainable alternative to what bigger cities offer; a place to call home with a great quality of life and efficient management by leaders constantly mindful of the needs of the population. Plainfield epitomizes a successful experiment; a reference for what the little towns and even bigger cities in Indiana can do: to efficiently interpret all the changes that the green wave of a healthier, active and simple way of life is bringing.

Article by GM/Jones