GOLDEN SPOKES, SPIKES & SPEAKING SYMBOLIZE THE VISION TO CONNECT THE COUNTRY
Whether the speech was about a golden spike or a golden spoke the same vision for economic growth, community building, and connectivity throughout the country for the good of all was echoed in the sentiments of two events separated by almost a century and a half.
The first occurrence was on May 10, 1869 in Promontory Summit, Utah. The Golden Spike Event celebrated the joining of the nation along the first Transcontinental Railroad. The ceremonial installation of the ‘golden spike’ completed the merger of the two railroad lines, the Union and Central Pacific Railroad to connect the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States. The joining of the two railroads was declared “the destiny of the nation.” That destiny peaked in 1916 when there were 254, 000 roadmiles of rail track across the United States.
144 years, five months and 17 days later, approximately 120 people gathered on a crisp sunny Sunday afternoon in October to celebrate the opening of a pedestrian and bicycling trail in northwest Indiana. The Golden Spoke Celebration marked the opening of the Mid-America Trails and Greenways Conference (MATAG) held biennially since 2003. But with the popularity, acceptance and momentum of the trail movement begun 25 years ago, opening another trail in Indiana is really no big deal. Steve Morris, Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director of Outdoor Recreation, has even said that the state has met and exceeded its goal of having a trail within seven and one-half miles of all Indiana residents by 2015 and is now working toward a revised goal of a trail within five miles of each resident. He expects to meet the new goal by 2015. Studies, resident surveys, comprehensive and master plans for cities, towns, regions and even states verify the top priority of building trails and more trails. People want trails---for physical and mental health, social contact, and alternative transportation. The trails are the enabler for economic growth, sustainability and the most important bottom line---quality of life; and they are finally “everywhere” or getting close.
Two factors made the event special enough to draw over one hundred people on Sunday, October 27, 2013 to a state line in the asphalt pavement along the Pennsy Greenway. The first factor was its symbolic and real significance in connecting people to one another not just between the two cities of Munster, Indiana and Lansing, Illinois, but the people of two states along one trail and the people of a region to the country. Specifically, this opening connects the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to the Midwestern United States along the “longest non-motorized trail” in the United States; The American Discovery Trail (ADT). The ADT is a 6,800-mile trail crossing 15 states. It is the nation’s first coast-to-coast non-motorized recreation trail. According to the Discovery Trail website: “The ADT provides trail users the opportunity to journey into the heart of all that is uniquely American — its culture, heritage, landscape and spirit.” Fortunately, for those trail users in Indiana, the cross-country trail splits just east of Richmond, IN into a north and south route that travels west and merges again in Colorado.
The northern route crosses into Illinois along the Pennsy Greenway where the Golden Spoke celebration occurred.
Regionally, this connection is significant because of the many other trails connecting now and in the future to this route. In Illinois, the trail will connect to the 450-mile long Burnham Greenway/Grand Illinois System.
In Indiana, the Pennsy Greenway connects to the Monon Rail Trail, and the Erie-Lackawanna Trails.
The second factor of importance for this event was the multi-agency cooperation highlighted and emphasized by all of the speakers at the celebration. Two state governments, regional planning agencies, town and village governments, citizens and trail advocates displayed the non-partisan “git her done” attitude historically known in the United States. For the good of all people they came together to connect a nation along a trail at a state line between two towns in northwest Indiana. And, to paraphrase Dr. Seuss: “Oh the places you’ll go! . . . And the people you will meet!
Article by TIna Jones