Planning The Milwaukee Road Trail
The impetus to begin trail planning and construction in earnest came in late 2012, when Marcey Phillips of Healthy Balance Wellness Center in Bedford contacted ITF and said “I want a trail.”
At the same time, Ralph Price, Executive Director of Camp Challenge and Bicyclist Extraordinaire (ask him about his 2013 GAP Adventure), also in Bedford, contacted ITF President Richard Vonnegut and said “this rail trail would be awesome, what an opportunity, how can I help!” In early 2013, regular monthly trail planning meetings got underway with interested citizens, Bedford Mayor Girgis and Marla Jones, the Assistant Director of the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council.
Almost immediately, the stars began to align for this trail building project. Marla Jones was able to secure the help of the graduate students at the nationally number two ranked (according to U.S. News and World Report), IU-Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA). As their Capstone Project for a Masters Degree in Public Affairs, students Amber Gress, Calley Mersmann, and Andrew Tuskey produced The Milwaukee Road Transportation Trailway and Limestone Trails TOOLKIT.
The toolkit is a comprehensive document including the benefits of trails, the history of the railroad line, trail access points and loops, and guidelines for design, operations, management and implementation. It identifies the Milwaukee Road Rail Trail corridor as the “main spine” of the proposed trail system with several loop trails connecting to the heart of the city at the Central Courthouse District.
The document is complementary guidance to the 2040 Bedford Comprehensive Plan adopted on July 7, 2010. In this long-term plan, the public identified the development of a trail system as the number one need and lacking amenity for Bedford. The 2040 Plan includes the vision of a trail system entitled the Greenway Plan.
As we all learned more about the corridor: the various access points, destinations and jurisdictional powers; it became clear that the project needed to be divided into seven sections:
|0||L Street||U Street||0.71||262.11 to 261.40|
|1||U Street||Bedford City Limit||2.53||261.40 to 258.87|
|2||Bedford City Limit||Coxton Road||2.38||258.87 to 256.49|
|3||Coxton Road||Dam Road at Williams||5.2||256.49 to 251.29|
|4||Dam Road at Williams||Main Street, Indian Springs||7.09||251.29 to 244.20|
|5||Main Street, Indian Springs||Crane Boundary Limit||1.1||244.20 to 243.10|
|6||Crane Boundary Limit||Inside Crane/ Rail Cut/ License Ends||1.75||243.10 to 241.35|
ITF is committed to building the trail through Phase Zero, One and Two to Coxton Road with in-kind donations from various suppliers, businesses, and volunteers. Coxton Road is the first at grade street crossing accessibility point after more than five miles of awesome trail through the city and Lawrence County. ITF will be seeking external funding for Phases Three and Four of the trail.
The uniqueness of the trail corridor has provided an unrivaled challenge almost every mile of the way. The trail runs through a city of almost 13.5 thousand people but the “city” is more than 70 feet 'up’ limestone embankments. At the same time, the corridor slopes downward through a river valley on bedrock; then parallels the bank of the East Fork of the White River, travels up the escarpment, through level upland farmland and over wetlands.
The rail corridor includes 33 bridges ranging from a cattle crossing of 16 foot to the 232 foot long deck plate girder truss built in 1899 crossing Indian Creek. The official trail corridor ends at one of the most secure government facilities, which is also the third largest (in size) naval operation in the world. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division employs over three thousand potential trail users, not including their families and friends. In the 19 mile length of the proposed trail, one can experience five different streams and creeks including Salt, Indian, Sulphur, Little Sulphur and Spider Creeks.
The railroad engineers who designed the rail corridor chose to follow the riverine corridor of Spider Creek to travel through and out of Bedford, Indiana running west and south for just over three miles. Unique features along the trail corridor include large rock cuts, a view of a covered bridge, a dam across White River, a closed mill and camp ground, the banks of the East Fork of White River, limestone outcroppings and a private boat and sportsmen’s club known for their generosity to the community (and steak night).
Trail crossings include at grade (with the road) and over some roads such as Stumphole Bridge Road. Adding to the challenges are erosion-some severe; unauthorized tree-clearing, private access routes, and motorized vehicle trail use. Yet the excitement, interest, anticipation and volunteer numbers are growing.