(This piece was originally published on May 18, 2018 by the Herald Bulletin.)

The Hoosier Environmental Council and Sandor Development are betting a proposed trailhead project will be the spark needed to revitalize the city’s main retail corridor.

The two groups are collaborating on a sweeping Mounds Greenway Trailhead District along Scatterfield Road at River Ridge Plaza, which will begin with a trailhead loop and improved canoe launch and could grow to include a playground, brewpub, picnic area and live music stage.

“Lots of retail centers are struggling, not just here in Anderson,” said Michael Popa, program and outreach associate with the Hoosier Environmental Council. “This is a low-cost investment that would bring attention to the amenities in the area … and could bring hundreds, if not more than a thousand, people each year.”

The group worked with the Sustainable Communities Institute at Ball State University to craft a development plan that would both protect and enhance the White River waterway as well as bolster new and existing business. And not just River Ridge Plaza.

“It’s all ultimately about improving the quality of life for the people of Anderson,” said Tim Maloney, the Council’s senior policy director. “… to make it more attractive for people to live, and families to come live in the city.”

Before they can get underway, the environmental group and Sandor, which owns the plaza and roughly 35 acres of riverside wild land, must secure an easement to use property along the bridge and across the river that is owned by the state and Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

But Maloney said they are in “final talks,” to establish an easement allowing for a set of trails connecting to the existing trail network throughout the city as well as a pedestrian and bikeway across the Scatterfield Road bridge.

After the easement is in place, first on the list of improvements is a lake trail loop, which would begin at the land outside Mancino’s Pizza and Grinders and wrap around a nearby private lake. It may later include fishing and a fitness park.

Sandor will also enhance the existing canoe and kayak launch into the White River by paving or graveling an area along the bank.

But Jeff Roberts, senior leasing representative at Sandor, said that’s hopefully just the humble beginning for the project.

“This is really ideal for successful business here,” he said. “When I look across the way, I see an asset, look at what’s going on with all the development, if we all teamed together … and it could start right here.”

As the district grows, Popa also hopes it will be the starting point for the Mounds Greenway project, a counterproposal to the Mounds Lake Reservoir, that would keep the river free-flowing and build up environmentally-friendly uses along the river.

It’s based on a similar project in Shelbyville called the Big Blue River Trailhead, which began as a small trailhead and shelter and eventually brought a brewpub and other outdoor-focused businesses to the surrounding area.

“It can be done in each step, it’s feasible and it’s been proven to work,” he said. “This could be the absolute shining star of Anderson (and) you have to have amenities like this for people to live in Anderson.”


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