April 2012

Letter to the Editor in Hendricks County Flyer - April 11, 2012

Following the March 28 and 29 public information meetings held by Hendricks County Parks and Recreation in the towns of Clayton and Amo to discuss and receive public comments on the acquisition of right-of-way and the design of the proposed Vandalia Trail 8-mile extension from Amo to Cartersburg, the following letter-to-the-editor was published in the Hendricks County Flyer. It can also be seen as the second letter at the link here.

Please note the correction highlighted in the copy below.

Letter-to-the-Editor sent April 6, 2012

I strongly support extension of the Vandalia Trail by Hendricks County Parks & Recreation to Clayton and Cartersburg.

The existing Vandalia Trail has been open between Amo and Coatesville in southwest Hendricks County for 7 years and will soon join an even more established trail system in Putnam County for a long distance multi-use trail connecting several communities for bicyclists, pedestrians, and horseback riders.

This repurposing of the former railroad corridor, thanks to the vision of local community leaders, thousands of hours of volunteer effort, the key partnership with Hendricks County Parks & Recreation, and generous contributions from private individuals, corporate donors, and charitable foundations, has brought a special feature to these communities that is being used regularly for fitness, quality of life, and, yes, even a safe transportation alternative away from the hazards of motor vehicles. These benefits will only increase as the additional connections are completed and existing sections are upgraded.

As has been demonstrated in countless locations around the country, the added trail connections would also draw tourism to an area that could certainly use the business. Just this week while working on the trail between Amo and Coatesville, I met a gentleman bicycling the trail who was visiting from Wisconsin with his wife to ride trails in the area.

Preparing the way for the longer term goal of extending this trail east to bring these same benefits to the town of Clayton, the community of Cartersburg, and the residents along the way is a natural and popular development objective. Along a 65-mile section of the developing cross-state National Road Heritage Trail, of which the Vandalia Trail is a part, every incorporated community, except Clayton, already has a notable trail within their boundaries or a trail connection with the next community. It is clear that communities that accommodate and encourage non-motorized transportation and recreation options attract more people, businesses, and interest. Why else do real estate listings for homes adjacent to trails invariably list proximity to the trail as a selling point? Certainly businesses usually include that as a desired amenity when researching new sites.

One new trail section that would be part of the Hendricks County Parks & Recreation project, along CR 500 S between Amo and Clayton, would provide a direct safety benefit. That road already sees many cyclists in close proximity to high speed motor traffic, with at least one cyclist [CORRECTION: runner] struck and killed in recent years. As the county grows, this problem will only increase and if accommodation is not planned for now, solutions could be much more expensive or less effective.

Concerning the efficiency of spending federal transportation money on multi-use trails, how many highway projects actually have associated volunteer groups also working the project and attracting charitable and corporate donations to leverage them and to reduce the total costs?

Greg Midgley

Hendricks County resident
Chairman, Friends of the Vandalia Trail
President, National Road Heritage Trail, Inc.