Trails to Love
The annual Covered Bridge Festival brings thousands of people to Parke County, Indiana every year, providing a boost to their local economy in a short period of time. The Covered Bridge Gateway Trails Association is working on creating a more permanent flow of tourism by building connecting liner parks. In 2009 the Association, a501c3 non-profit, was formed, by a group of folks who are not avid cyclists or runners, but people who care about the future of Parke County. They are concentrating on a 12 mile trail development from Rockville to Rosedale. Through the Rails-to-Trails program Governor Daniels started, they received 65% of the railroad corridor in their targeted territory. Additionally they have had one piece of property donated and with funds raised they purchased another portion, bringing them up to 70% of the land needed to fulfill their mission. There are 38 individual property owners that still own pieces of the railroad corridor between Rosedale and Rockville. The Association is anxious to talk to them about donating or purchasing an easement of their property.
“In areas where we do own larger segments, we are looking to get it opened up, put a trail on the ground, even if it is just compacted rock at first, just so people can see the benefits of the trail,” Trail Development Chair Cliff Kunze said.
Paving the Way
In five years time they just laid down their first trail in Rosedale, Indiana off Central Street. I visited the rail a couple days before the asphalt was to be laid on top of the crushed rock. After only having my car parked for a few minutes I already spotted a few people using the trail. All were anxious to talk about the newest addition to their community. The biggest fan just might be Chloe, Greg Rewers dog. “I think Chloe sometimes thinks it is her trail, when other people get on it. She likes to bark at them.” Rewers now finds it much safer to take his dog for a walk on the trail then along the street.
Justin and Natalie Montgomery were big proponents of the new trail, so much so they donated part of their land for it to be constructed. The trail butts up against the back of their property. It allows their two daughters to jump on the trail with their bikes with their parents’ supervision. “It is an added bonus to have it on our back yard.” To make way for the new trail, a few trees had to be knocked down. Justin and his landscaping company, Unlimited Green, plan on planting new trees along the trail to replace much of the lost canopy. “In small communities like this, there aren’t really places to get out and walk safely. Bigger cities you have trails. For people to be able to come out and have their own little place that they can go to on a routine basis is great,” Justin Montgomery said.
As time goes on, he knows the trail will benefit everybody. He is excited to see the trail extended to Rockville and eventually Vigo County. It could open up a gateway to many more outdoor fitness events.
Benefits of the Trails
The end goal is to make the Covered Bridge Gateway Trail a part of, what could be, one day a large loop connecting folks from the trail system in Indianapolis to the B&O trail in Montgomery County, and down through Terre Haute. This would put the midway point in Rockville, opening up opportunities for folks to camp, shop and eat at many of the wonderful facilities Parke County has to offer. “It used to be the number one draw for people to live in an area with golf courses, now it is recreational trails. I have hopes this would keep people in Parke County,” Association President Dixie Kunze said.
As with many non-profits, help is needed to fulfill their mission. They need three major bridges built. The cement structure and pylons are already there, from when the railroad was active. They could also use an engineer and land surveyor. On the administrative side they need someone familiar with accounting and property acquisition to make sure they are dotting all their I’s and crossing all their T’s. For more information visit www.bikethebridges.org. With continued community support from near and far the continuous tourism possibilities are endless.
Submitted by Jane Santucci