Trails in Indiana


If you have driven south on Interstate 65 from Indianapolis to Louisville , then you have crossed the eastern edge of an area known as Muscatatuck Bottoms. Its main expanse—some 25,600 acres, is west of I-65, where the two forks of the Muscatatuck River merge. The Bottoms that are visible from the interstate are south of Austin , where the large power-line towers always seem to have their feet in flooded woods and fields. Last summer, Governor Mitch Daniels announced plans for conservation of these wetlands. Their eventual protected status will plan for public access trails that foster appreciation of lands that still support climax forest species, large migrations of waterfowl, and serve as watershed for over one-thousand square miles of southeast Indiana . The Knobstone Trail extension will have to cross the Bottoms area when completed.

A similar, and larger, wetlands conservation program for the Wabash River and Sugar Creek corridors is also in the planning stages. This 43,000-acre riparian habitat stretches from south of Terre Haute , up the river and the creek to Shades State Park . Ironically, part of this corridor is near to where, in early Indiana history, the Eel River Miami people were allowed a 64,000-acre reserve along Sugar Creek that was ceded to the United States in 1828.
In this International Year of Forests, 2011, it’s time for the U. S. Forest Service to review its land management and planning rules for all of its 193 million acres of forests and grasslands, which includes trails on its public lands and other concerns. This process of review is required periodically. Hoosier National Forest, with its 200 miles or so of equestrian and hiking pathways lies within USFS purview. This year the Forest Service has put forth changes to its land management policies and invites the public to comment on the new proposal(s). March 23rd is the date for two public sessions to take place in the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Bedford , Indiana , 811 Constitution Avenue ; 1-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. The public comment period ends May 16, 2011. Comments may also be submitted via the public participation portal. Or, you can use Regolations Government. For a reading of the changes in question, see the Federal Register/Vol.76, No. 30/ Monday, February 14, 2011/Proposed Rules.
As of late last year, the north and south Indiana tiers of the American Discovery Trail are now overseen by Jeff Edmondson. He formerly was the coordinator for the north route only. Edmondson would like to work with the U. S. Bike Route System in planning the American Discovery Trail’s Indiana crossings. He explained that neither he nor the ADT organizers are into building trails, but would rather use what’s already here. For example, he would like to utilize all of the 33-mile Nickel Plate Trail or the 60-mile Cardinal Greenway, which is almost complete, and for now, use county roads to link major existing bike and pedestrian routes. Another note from Edmondson and the ADT is a desire to move the Deam Lake Knobstone Trailhead closer to where the camping area is now located, but this would of course need application to DNR and approval.
The USBRS is gradually making progress, faster in some areas than others, but the scale of this undertaking dictates that it will require some time to completely implement. However, Adventure Cycling reports that 30 states are now in the process of choosing and testing specific routes. Whatever course(s) are chosen must be approved by state departments of transportation and bike-knowledgeable individuals or groups who also know their geography and cartographic areas.
Currently, Indiana ’s main co-ordinators are Bicycle Indiana and Hoosier Rails to Trails Council. North-south USBR 35 is the emphasis at this point in time for these groups. HRTC reports that the southern Indiana portion is fairly well plotted, but how to get through Indianapolis is a thorny issue. USBR 35’s northern portion is being actively bicycled to determine the best way. Other, non-HRTC bicyclists are scrutinizing the Lake Michigan, Chicago , and south Indiana shore route, which is USBR 36.
Though not all states are yet participating in implementing the system, neighboring states to Indiana are involved. Michigan is probably furthest along, and Adventure Cycling reports that they are actually ready to submit one route for approval, USBR 20. This is an east-west way starting north of Detroit , progressing to the Ludington Ferry across Lake Michigan, and eventually heading to Portland , Oregon and the Northwest Coast .
Other Indiana neighbors, Ohio , Kentucky , and Illinois , have also begun their planning and work on the system. Kentucky is seeking a realignment of the original USBR 76. A note for tourists through Illinois and points west: one of the key east-west proposed bike routes would, if allowed, follow the classic Mother Road, U. S. Rte 66. It should be remembered that none of the proposed routings, at this time, has as yet completed the gauntlet of approval to reach “Official” USBRS status.
Freewheelin’ Community Bikes is an Indianapolis non profit that teaches young persons how to care for bicycles and to hone riding skills. In return they help repair donated bikes in order to sell at affordable prices. At this year’s National Bike Summit in Washington, D. C., Freewheelin’ Community Bikes was awarded a Silver designation for their Bicycle Friendly Business Progam, from the League of American Bicyclists.
In the area of Pogue’s Run watershed, where there is also a trail, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful was recently given a $70,000 grant by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. The funds will be used over two years for restoring habitat along the creek.
Article and photographs by Jane Conrad.