(This piece was originally published on February 11, 2016 in The Herald Bulletin.)

Ken de la Bastide

Local residents give input on proposed trail system

ANDERSON — “A discussion Wednesday about the Mounds Greenway centered on the ownership of the proposed trail system and funding for the project.

About 60 people gathered at the Anderson Public Library in a session hosted by the Hoosier Environmental Council and the Heart of the River to get input on the proposal.

As proposed, the greenway would extend from Anderson to Muncie along the White River and conserve approximately 2,300 acres in a natural state.

Tim Maloney, senior policy director at HEC, said results of an economic study are expected to be released in March, and the intent is to then conduct community meetings in Anderson, Chesterfield, Daleville, Yorktown and Muncie.

“The communities will tell us if this is a good concept,” Maloney said. “The economic study is the first of several that will look at protecting the natural environment along the White River.”

Answering a question from audience member Mike Montgomery, Maloney said cost estimates for the project range from $15 million to $40 million.

Maloney said the biggest variable is the cost of obtaining the land for the trail system.

“This is not a cheap project,” Maloney said.

The best estimate is the project could be completed in five years, but Maloney said the most reasonable estimate is it will take 10 years.

“This is not the golden goose for central Indiana,” he said. “It’s one component of transforming the area.”

Maloney said ownership has not been determined, adding it could be owned by the state, local units of government or a public/private partnership.

He said funding could come from the state, federal grants and private donations from individuals and businesses.

Ben Orcutt asked what would happen if property owners opted to not sell or grant easements for the trail system.

“Number one, during the design you figure out where you could run into a problem,” Maloney said. “You figure a way around it.

“Property owners may change their mind and ownership changes,” he said. “You come up with the best design to minimize the problem.”

Maloney said the critical voice in the proposal is the landowners along the White River.

“We don’t want to use eminent domain,” he said. “If none of the landowners want to cooperate, that is difficult to overcome.”

Richard Geisler said the Rangeline Nature Preserve in Anderson is one of the best mountain biking areas in the state.

“This could be a bicycle mecca,” he said. “You will find people will want to come to Anderson for the biking opportunities.”

Geisler said the roads in Madison County are too narrow for bicyclists to ride safely and Anderson only has bike lanes along Columbus Avenue.

“This area is behind the times,” he said.

George Mock, who owns property along the river, asked about privacy for property owners if the trail is constructed.

Maloney said that would have to be negotiated with each property owner.

Mock asked if there is an advantage to locating the greenway on the north shore of the White River, as opposed to the south shore.

“The location is completely open,” Maloney said.

Carol Emmert asked if the greenway would be close to the local communities, noting the Cardinal Greenway has a lack of restroom facilities.

Maloney said the trail would roughly follow the river through the local communities.

“If gives these communities an opportunity for economic development,” he said.”

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