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Trail of the Month: July 2012
Indiana's Cardinal Greenway

One can imagine the collective Hoosier hooray when the final leg of the Cardinal Greenway was put in place last summer. The rail corridor for Indiana's longest and long-awaited rail-trail was purchased nearly 20 years ago and now offers 62 miles of smooth, inviting blacktop spanning five counties in east-central Indiana.
 
The newest 20-mile section from Losantville to Richmond is "truly gorgeous," says Angie Pool, the executive director of
Cardinal Greenways, the nonprofit that manages the trail. "It's way out in farm country, and you go through wooded areas and over small creeks."
 
A major boon for the trail's development came in 2006 with Governor Mitch Daniels' ambitious initiative, "Hoosiers on the Move." The primary goal of the program—designed to encourage healthy habits, enhance tourism and boost economic development—was to have a usable trail within 15 minutes or 7.5 miles of every resident by 2016. Flash forward to today, and with four years remaining, that feat is already close to completion. 
 
"We are actually looking at raising the bar with a new goal of having residents within five miles or 10 minutes of a trail," says Steve Morris, director of the Outdoor Recreation Division at the
Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
 
To help accomplish this task, Governor Daniels pledged to double funding for trails from $10 million to $20 million annually, primarily by directing a larger percentage of annual federal Transportation Enhancement funding toward bicycle and pedestrian projects. TE has been a major source of funding for the Cardinal Greenway, as has support from donations and private-sector sources, such as the Ball Brothers Foundation and the Lilly Endowment.
 
"Because of the program, we saw trails that I didn't think would be built in my lifetime completed in just a couple of years," Morris says.
 
The Cardinal Greenway was included in the plan as a State Visionary Trail, one of several to be united to form a statewide system of interconnected pathways nearly 1,000 miles long once completed. And the Greenway is also part of the
American Discovery Trail, a network of connected trails that forms a coast-to-coast, non-motorized route across the country.
 
"The Cardinal Greenway is not just a state trail, but part of a regional trail system," says Eric Oberg, manager of trail development at
RTC's Midwest Regional Office. "These connections make the trail not just a destination for Hoosiers, but for residents outside the state as well."
 
The dream for such a trail began in 1993, when a group of dedicated locals saw the rail corridor's potential and purchased the land from CSX Corporation. The trail's name stems from the last passenger train that regularly traveled the railbed.
 
"The Cardinal Greenway was one of the pioneering flagship trails," says Morris, "developed early on by future-minded citizens that banded together."
 
Groundbreaking began four years later in Muncie, the physical and metaphorical center point of the trail. Much of the city's Wysor Street Depot, which once served as a destination for passengers and mail, has been beautifully restored to its 1901 condition, with the original woodwork and flooring. The building is included on the National Registry of Historic Places and houses the trail's headquarters, as well as a model railroad and gift shop. Old-fashioned cruiser bikes with big, cushy seats and large handlebars are also available here for a free spin along the trail.
 
"They've made the depot more than just a place to pick up a trail brochure," says Oberg, who recalls his visit to the trail fondly. "They've made it a destination."
 
Along its length, the pathway offers picturesque rural landscapes, fields of wildflowers and several bridges. These tranquil sections are interspersed with the cities of Marion, Muncie, Losantville and Richmond, which offer places to rest, eat and enjoy cultural attractions.
 
In addition to being a popular amenity for cyclists, walkers, inline skaters and cross-country skiers, the trail features a companion equestrian pathway that stretches nearly four miles alongside the Muncie section and provides access to the Prairie Creek Reservoir horse trail. The Medford Trailhead (at County Road 500 South) has hitching rails, a mounting step and ample room for trailers. But this is just the beginning; future plans call for a 25-mile horse trail to be built alongside the greenway.
 
Another project hinges on the resolution of a roughly 10-mile gap between Gaston and Gas City caused by opponents to the trail who purchased this stretch of rail corridor years ago. Alternative routes are being considered to replace the current on-road connection. Fortunately, the list of naysayers is small, and the trail has received widespread support from the surrounding communities.
 
That support has been crucial for Cardinal Greenways, which with only six staffers relies heavily on local volunteers. The trail has a reputation for being remarkably well maintained, especially given its distance. "We pride ourselves on having our trail in pristine shape," Pool says. "We have 400 active volunteers that help with the trail's maintenance and they really take ownership of it."
 
Supporters also come out in full force for the annual
Great Greenway Tour held in July. The event, which draws more than 350 participants, benefits the maintenance of the greenway and promotes cycling and healthy lifestyles. Multiple route options departing from various points along the trail offer trips for all ages and cycling abilities.
 
As Pool enthusiastically notes, "I've been told the Cardinal Greenway is the best-kept secret in Indiana. We're not a secret any more. We're here for the communities we span."

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Related Links

Cardinal Greenways

 

Trail Facts

Name: Cardinal Greenway

Used railroad corridor: Originally the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which subsequently became part of the CSX railroad network.

Trail website: Cardinal Greenway

Length: 62 miles

Counties: Grant, Delaware, Henry, Randolph and Wayne

Start Point/End Point: County Road 400 West in Marion (north end) to Test Road in Richmond, Ind. (south end)

Surface type:
Asphalt

Uses: Bicycling, walking, inline skating and cross-country skiing (the trail is not plowed in winter); the Cardinal Greenways Horse Trail is also available along a portion of the Muncie section.

Difficulty: Easy

Grade: Does not exceed 3 percent. As the Wysor Street Depot in Muncie is a popular starting point, you'll likely have a slightly uphill climb on your way south to Losantville (the trail's highest point), but, from there, it's easy sailing down to Richmond, the trail's lowest point.

Getting There: The nearest airport is the Fort Wayne International Airport, about 50 miles northeast of Marion, the trail's northern endpoint. Another option is the Indianapolis International Airport, the state's largest, about 80 miles from the trail. Rental cars are available from both locations.

Access and Parking: There are a number of trailheads along the length of the path. For detailed directions for reaching the trailheads, visit the maps section of the trail's website.

Also, to navigate the area with an interactive GIS map, more photos, user reviews and ratings, and loads of other trip-planning information, visit RTC's free trail-finder website, TrailLink.com. The Cardinal Greenway is covered in four different sections on TrailLink.com, from north to south: Marion Section, Muncie Section, Losantville Section and Richmond Section.

Rentals: Free bike rentals are available at the Wysor Street Depot (700 E. Wysor Street, Muncie; 765.287.0399) by depositing your driver's license. If you'd rather start from the south end,
Cycling and Fitness Warehouse (213 North 3rd Street, Richmond; 765.935.5047) offers bike rentals directly adjacent to the trail for $10 to $15 per day, or $20 for the weekend.


© Cardinal Greenway, Inc.


© Cardinal Greenway, Inc.

© Rails-to-Trails Conservancy 

© Cardinal Greenway, Inc.

© Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
 

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