by Bob Weaver
You should care. The benefits go well beyond the use/don’t use question.
It’s an easy, knee-jerk reaction. “I won’t use a greenway.” Or, “It’s a waste because it will only benefit a few people.” It’s a reaction. But it’s not a solid argument. While it doesn’t have to be your choice for recreation or healthy activity, if you’re interested in the environmental, economic, and physical wellbeing of your community and neighbors, it is something you can care about. Even if you don’t consider yourself the “target market,” it’s our mission to try to get you to care, consider and ultimately lend your nod of support to Mounds Greenway. Here’s why we have hope that you will:
Healthy rivers can’t be taken for granted – A free-flowing river corridor like the west fork of the White River is something to be valued and preserved. As a system that is natural and wild, the river corridor provides habitat for east central Indiana’s fish and wildlife, as well as migratory birds. It is home to wetlands and forests. And, to put it as succinctly as possible, it makes a positive impact on the local environment.
Trails increase property values – but not at the expense of taking property or burying hundreds of other properties in water, it should be noted. A trail is a linear park. The activity and amenity of a linear park, has been shown, almost without fail, to add to the perceived and real value of residential and commercial properties nearby.
Trails create jobs – Tourism is a $10 Billion industry in Indiana. Cyclists spend money – more than drivers, in fact, as numerous studies have shown. Outdoor recreation and tourism is an area in which Indiana can compete with other regions. We have beautiful, long straight stretches of countryside dotted by quintessential small towns. We have a beautiful, free-flowing river making a comeback. When looking for activity, people still want to get outside.
Trails work within the existing framework – Trails are not a development scheme and do not contribute to sprawl. While they do require land, the parcels are modest comparable to a country lane or footpath, and can be done through mutual agreement and partnership. And, they don’t require massive infrastructure upheaval or exorbitant investments. In fact, a trail can even produce an ROI in your lifetime as opposed to someone else’s. The design and programming/activity that make up the trail builds upon the existing community and makes it stronger whether that’s a deeper connection to nature or spurs that connect to business districts and regional attractions such as state parks.
Trails help build an identity for the future – The Millennial generation is the generation that smart communities are building for. Generation X, Boomers and others will benefit, but the largest, most influential group is demanding walkable communities and amenities that don’t favor the car. The growing trail and complete street movement recognizes and builds to this reality – not the reality of 50 years ago.
Trails provide a place for the spirit – The benefits of being out in nature have been lost on many. A trail is a simple way to help people reconnect with that and to restore our relationship with, and respect for, that world. It’s a way to combat the inactivity and emotional and physical distress posed by the modern, wired, linked-up world.
So, you may never make it to the trail near you. Or any trail for that matter. But likely, you’ll still see the benefits from their presence. Trails do all of these things despite the frequent opposition they face in their initial planning stages. The myths live on. But trails march on, and win converts through dedication, trial and experience – seeing is believing. If you’re an opponent or a non-user, maybe the benefits will begin to hit home through reading, discussion with others and experience. Hey, maybe you’ll step on that trail. And you might like it!