NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) – A long stretch of railway through southern Indiana is sitting unused. But the city of New Albany wants to change that, working to convert it into trails people around the region can use.
“We’re very excited about it,” New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan said.
Gahan said the city wants to convert 63 miles of unused CSX rail line into trails for hiking and biking, connecting from IUS in New Albany all the way up to Lawrence County, Indiana.
“The rails to trails really fits a big need in Indiana,” Gahan said. “It gets folks out among nature.” The trail, he said, can encourage people to explore their communities and drive healthier activities.
Projects like it have had success elsewhere in Indiana and in other states. One Southern Indiana President Wendy Dant Chesser said this will bring tourism to the area while also growing the community’s population and quality of workforce.
“People who have an opportunity to live where they choose and work where they want to work are going to choose those communities that provide quality-of-place activities,” Dant Chesser said.
The city already has applied for a chunk of the $90 million being offered by Gov. Eric Holcomb through state grants to build new trails, hoping to cover the cost of the land. Right now, the route would stretch from Mitchell, Ind., to IUS in New Albany, but Gahan said he hopes to eventually connect it all the way to the river.
“Everyone we’ve talked to has been very supportive of this Rails to Trails, especially when you talk about it in connection to our Ohio River Greenway,” Gahan said. “This is really when you look at it, it’s really the north/south entrance to the Ohio River Greenway. So when you have the opportunity for those two projects to mesh together, it’ll do wonders for the region. It’ll do super stuff for the city of New Albany as well.”
The city is working with CSX, other communities and the state on next steps for the project. Gahan said it will take time but once it’s complete, the trail can help grow the region.
“With a little luck and a little effort, you’re really going to see some really great things when it comes to this Rails to Trails in the future,” Gahan said.
Learn more about what the city wants to do through the Rails to Trails program by clicking here.
The city has applied for state funding through Holcomb’s Next Level Trails. So far, the grant program has received 82 applications from 42 of the state’s 92 counties, requesting more than 240 potential miles of hiking, biking and riding trails.
“The number of applications in the first round far surpassed our expectations and shows Indiana’s enthusiasm for trails,” Holcomb said in a statement. “This sends a big message that Hoosiers are invested in improving quality of life across the state.”
The Next Level Trails grant program is the largest infusion of trail funding in state history, dedicating $90 million to connect communities. The state will announce the first $25 million in awarded grants this spring for its opening round. The Next Level Trail funding will continue to be awarded in rounds until all the $90 million has been allocated. The Indiana DNR will review the applications and evaluate the proposals submitted.
Learn more about what the governor is proposing through Next Level Trails by clicking here.