Innovative Indy: Cultural Trail Is the Way Forward

Posted 11/13/14 by Alyssa Bruns in Building Trails

In Indianapolis, a city best known for car racing—biking and walking have long taken a backseat. However, the Indianapolis Cultural Trail is breathing new life into the downtown area by putting walkers and bicyclists at the center of its transportation equation. After more than a decade of planning and construction, the eight-mile trail, opened in 2013, is an innovative and unifying force between neighborhoods and is changing the way people look at Indy.

Anticipation and community support for this project grew over the years, and the final product integrates these things in many different ways. The City of Indianapolis, an early champion of the project, donated all the rights-of-way for the construction of the trail. Federal funding as well as significant private contributions also helped the trail go from vision to reality.

Photo by Sarah Snyder

The trail is undeniably a vital transportation corridor, but its value goes far beyond just a way to get around. In fact, the Indy Cultural Trail is putting Indianapolis on the map for being one of the most environmentally innovative cities in the world; the trail features 25,400 feet of stormwater planters designed to be a sustainable way for the city to handle runoff. This green infrastructure reduces the burden on the city’s combined sewer systems, diverting 58,000 gallons of water per rain event. That comes out to 2.6 million gallons of water per year!

These sustainable water planters serve as homes for plants native to the area, as well as protective barriers between pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles.  It’s the first time that this type of sustainable infrastructure is being implemented extensively in trail design and serves as a template for other cities to replicate.

And true to its name, culture abounds on the pathway; in fact, seven original pieces of art, as well as the Glick Peace Walk—a showcase of 12 luminary individuals—line the corridor and bring the city’s local art scene trailside.

People outside of Indiana are taking note of the success of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, and folks want to know the secret. What makes this trail so special? And how can other communities replicate the success of the Cultural Trail? Planners from neighboring cities such as Cleveland and others from around the country (and world!) are visiting Indianapolis to answer those questions, and bring home both inspiration and solutions for their own trail networks.

The awards and accolades for the trail keep on rolling in: Indianapolis won the International Downtown Association’s 2013 Downtown Pinnacle Award for Public Space and the 2014 Interbike award for the Best Place for Bikes, and in 2013, the Project for Public Spaces ranked the trail as one of the top five boldest projects happening around the world.

With all this excitement in just the first couple years of its opening, it’s no wonder why people can’t stop talking about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail!

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