Mounds Greenway Notes: A periodic look at new developments in the Mounds Greenway initiative and an overview of trails and greenways as sources of sustainable conservation, recreation and creators of economic opportunity. To stay in touch with Mounds Greenway, sign up for our newsletter or follow our social media networks.
What kind of economic opportunity does the Mounds Greenway offer?
The proposed Mounds Greenway aims to accomplish three things in addition to protecting priceless prehistoric mounds in Anderson: conservation of a free-flowing White River and its surrounding forests and plant/wildlife habitat, provision of outdoor recreation for everyone, and economic opportunity related to connectivity, tourism, recreation and leisure.
“The economic opportunity,” people will ask. “Where does it exist? What’s the price tag?” It’s useful to look at examples, so we will do that here on our blog with regularity. Starting close to home, let’s look at the Monon Trail in Marion and Hamilton County. And let’s start over a beer. Or at least let’s start with beer as a topic. Brewpubs, to be more specific.
Let’s chat over a beer.
The Monon Trail, an 18.1 mile trail that snakes north from the near eastside of Indianapolis, north through midtown and under I-465, reaches all the way north to Westfield in northern Hamilton County. The first major portion of the trail was completed in 1999. At that time, the Broad Ripple Brewpub, whose creation predated the trail’s completion by about ten years, was the lone local beer option for the northside of Marion County/Indianapolis. The brewpub has continued to thrive, no doubt its expansion of outdoor seating due, in part, to the presence of the trail, its traffic, and its effect on animating surrounding streets.
And the presence of the Monon Trail has been integral to the development of the independent brewery scene ever since. Fast forward from 1999 to today. Within footsteps of the Broad Ripple Brewpub and located directly on the trail or within a few steps, you now have Brugge Brasserie, 3 Wisemen Brewing and Triton Taproom. Travel north of Broad Ripple and you’ll find sudsy trailside stops in Nora (Big Lug), Carmel(Union, Upland) and Westfield(Grand Junction). A few miles south, you have Bent Rail Brewery and the Upland Taproom, connected to the trail and the walkable nearby neighborhoods that surround. Further south, past the State Fairgrounds, Central State Brewing joins Goose the Market and Shoefly Public House in offering hungry and thirsty people something more than worth their time. Further south, you find the trail’s terminus. That doesn’t stop it, though. It’s a one block jog to Indianapolis’s Cultural Trail, a gem that, not coincidentally has more than half a dozen breweries directly on the trail or within shouting distance.
What do brewers see in the Monon Trail? No doubt the same thing others who live and work on or near the trail have seen. A special value. Not only is there a well-documented property-value dividend in being closely proximate to the trail, there’s also a quality of business and quality of life dividend. The trail has nature, it has people, it has recreation and connectivity. Look at it this way, it’s 18.1 miles of parkland. That means 36 miles of park ‘frontage’. And at a width of only a few feet, it doesn’t add up to the acres and acres of land or require much effort to get to the other side. Everything that was there before is pretty much intact. Only better.
And it’s not just brewpubs. The commercial nodes are dotted with tons of independent businesses: cafes, pizzerias, ethnic restaurants, coffee shops, ice cream, bike shops and more. They serve the trail and connect to it – often borrowing its name or at least alluding to it. The trail itself, as a product offers variety, too. In between the brewpubs and commercial nodes, there are long stretches of quiet, leafy pathway, connections to parks and museums, and connections to other trails. And of course, there are bridge crossings over Fall Creek and the White River. The trail attracted 1.2 million users in 2005.
Monon Trail Brewery/Brewpub locations 1999-present
And beer. While the brewpub culture in Indiana grew, in Indianapolis its growth has been inextricably linked to the Monon and Cultural Trails. As the example above shows, the growth has been noticeable. Big Lug Canteen, a recent entry from Sahm’s Restaurant group believes it’s not incidental. Quoted in the IndyStar, its owners believe the Monon helps make their new brewpub a destination. They have built the brewpub, opening in October 2015, with first and second floor patios overlooking the trail.
So, is that it? Brewpubs? Is that what the proposed Mounds Greenway is all about? Not by a longshot. Brewpubs are an illustration of the economic opportunity and vitality that trails bring to their communities. It comes in the forms of community centers, parks, connecting spurs, coffee shops, tourist destinations, bike shops, restaurants, offices, museums, and more. The Monon Trail has provided a diverse set of neighborhoods and towns with broad opportunities to create active, connected sustainable public and private spaces interspersed with connections to art, nature and recreation.
For more on the economic vitality that trails help create, visit AmericanTrails.org or see the collection we’ve gathered on MoundsGreenway.org.