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Heritage Trail of Madison

Volunteers reach milestone
in path from river to hilltop

Supporters cite potential economic
opportunity to come from project

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(December 2007) – Richard Ries and other serious cyclists spend much of their offseason training on a relatively unknown but beautiful bicycling and walking trail being developed in Madison, Ind. As CEO of Big Ring Adventure Team, a cycling tour group, Ries says he appreciates the opportunity that Heritage Trail of Madison gives area bicyclists and walkers. But even after five years since it was begun, the trail remains relatively unknown to most residents and potential users.

December 2007 Indiana Edition Cover

December 2007
Indiana Edition Cover

“The city really hasn’t gotten behind this project from a promotional standpoint, but I think once it is completed, we will see more excitement generated toward it,” Ries said. “It’s going to be a great boon to Madison. Trails have done wonderful things for other communities that have them, both economically and recreationally. We just need to do more to promote its value so more people will start to use it.”
Presently, the environmental study for the Heritage Trail of Madison, has been completed and submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation. Now the design, property acquisition and construction phase for the Western Portion of the Heritage Trail of Madison has begun. A small, three-fourths of a mile section of the hilltop section, which runs from the Madison State Hospital to Crooked Creek, is paved and is already being used by walkers and cyclists.
In the next phase of the project, the trail will continue northward and then westward where it will end at the Clifty Falls State Park office on Green Road. When completed, the entire trail will connect the hilltop to the downtown via a non-motorized route and include many points of interest along the way.
Once the trail is complete it will join thousands of similar trails across the nation that are being built to enhance economic opportunities in those regions.
The Heritage Trail of Madison is the brainchild of Ries and a small handful of other civic minded residents in Madison who wanted to develop a safe way for people to walk or ride their bicycles from the downtown area to the hilltop. The group also realized the trail could be used as an economic tool for the area because it would link vital resources along the way.

Karen Bump, Tom Pritchard & Bob Greene

Photo by Konnie McCollum

Heritage Trail board members
from left, Karen Bump and Tom
Pritchard, with volunteer Bob Greene
pose along the trail where it ends along
Vaughn Drive near the Ohio River
in downtown Madison.

“The Heritage Trail has lots of potential to be a really good thing for Madison,” said Ries. “When it is finished, the possibilities of its use will be tremendous.”
Karen Bump, another founder of the Heritage Trail of Madison and the vice president for the organization, said the idea for the trail was conceived in 1995 as a result of the Total Quality of Life Initiative and a grassroots committee of interested citizens.
“We worked hard to build community support and enlisted the aid of local politicians and organizations to get things going,” she said.
Those efforts paid off in 2002 when the city of Madison was awarded a $1 million Transportation Enhancement Grant from the federal highway department to develop the Heritage Trail of Madison. INDOT oversees the administration of those funds.
Bob Winslow, a Local Public Agencies Engineer at INDOT, said there are numerous multipurpose trails all across the state, and many more in the planning stages. “The federal government has been involved in these transportation grants for a long time because of how beneficial they are to communities,” he said.
Such multi-use trails, which are usually 10-12 feet wide and completely paved, help augment roads, save on automotive fuels because they are for walkers, cyclists, wheel chairs and other non-motorized modes of transportation, and have many environmental and health benefits. They also have a positive economic impact on communities by linking many vital sites together, such as schools and hospitals.
“When people think trails, they think dirt, gravel and woods,” said Winslow. “They are very pleasantly surprised when they see these multi-use trails.”
Rising Sun, Salem, Seymour, Bloomington, Clarksville and Greenwood are among the other Indiana communities that are developing trails with T.E. grants. “There is an incredible trail in Bloomington that follows the abandoned Monon Railroad tracks,” said Winslow. “It takes people throughout the downtown area to shops and businesses.”
Kevin Heber, communications chairman for the nonprofit Greenways Foundation, said trails developed from the old railway beds that link towns together are popular in other states. “Indiana is trying to catch up and broaden its scope and not limit to just rail beds.”

Bicyclists on the Heritage Trail of Madison

Photo provided by Rich Ries

Bicyclists ride along the paved portion
of the Heritage Trail in Madison.

His organization helps promote the longer trails, including the Heritage Trail of Madison, because of their potential for economic and tourism development. “Trails have a lot to offer,” he said. “They are a good way for visitors to explore because the best way to get to know a place is by foot or on a bike.”
In fact, he said a recent state trails plan published by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources envisions more than 2,000 miles around the state. Currently less than 200 miles are actually developed.
Madison’s Heritage Trail will eventually link prominent historic sites, shops and other tourist locations in the downtown with hilltop attractions, such as Clifty Falls State Park, the Rucker Sports Complex and the Lide White Boys & Girls Club & Family Center.
In its current state, parts of the trail are dirt and gravel, and there are no trail markers for the beginnings of the trail at the downtown riverfront or at the Madison State Hospital hilltop.
However, one mile of the paved trail has already opened and has been used by the public for some time. That portion begins at the Madison State Hospital Campus and ends at the base of the hill at Crooked Creek.
Just a few hundred feet south of Crooked Creek, volunteers led by Madison resident Bob Greene, worked diligently all last summer to open the riverfront portion of the Heritage Trail. That section of the trail will connect with the Hillside section as soon as property between the two pieces is acquired or the right-of-way secured.

Heritage Trail of Madison scenery

Photo by Don Ward

Heritage Trail is a little known gem
that offers walkers and cyclists a
beautiful ride through nature.

The riverfront section, which begins at the western end of Vaughn Drive and Vernon Street, has been cleared and widened but remains a dirt path. After reaching the water treatment station, the trail follows an uneven terrain along the rail road tracks until it crosses under the Main Street train bridge near the old Madison Train Incline. At that point, the trail veers to the left to a short, paved road until it reaches a gravel path at Crooked Creek.
A gravel path crosses over the tunnels at Crooked Creek for a short length and then a paved path continues up the steep incline to the Madison State Hospital. The terrain is very uneven and rough over the unpaved sections; therefore, only all-terrain bicycles are suggested as the best type of bicycle to use on the path. Walkers will need to be cautious of their footing while walking along the rail road tracks. Until the downtown portion is paved, wheelchairs will not be able to negotiate the rough terrain.
“We want to complete the project by the city’s bicentennial in 2009,” said Tom Pritchard, president of the Heritage Trail. “It is a great way for kids, and others, to travel back and forth from downtown Madison to the hilltop without an automobile.”
Indeed, Pritchard said the Heritage Trail planners chose to open the hillside route first so that kids, walkers and bikers would have a safe way to traverse the hill.

Heritage Trail of Madison Map

This map shows the various complete and
incomplete portions of the Heritage Trail.
Board members hope to finish the trail in time
for Madison’s 2009 Bicentennial Celebration.

The developed part of the Heritage Trail of Madison enjoys spectacular scenery and surroundings. Although much steeper than most trails of its kind, it is still the best way for non-motorists to travel the daunting hill that overlooks the historic downtown.
Bump said engineers were definitely challenged when designing the hilltop section because of the natural geography of the area. The grade level varies from 6-10 percent in some places, which makes it a difficult walk for some users. Others will enjoy the intensity of the experience.
Ries said the fundamental design of the trail is excellent. “It is going to be a challenge for some cyclists,” he said. “They may have to walk their bikes uphill.”
“The steep grade of the hill certainly promotes the use of breaks on bikes,” acknowledges Pritchard, an avid bicyclist who regularly uses the trail. “Rollerblades are certainly not recommended, and anyone riding a bike should definitely wear a helmet.” The rest of the trail will be moderately flat and easier to walk or bike.
When the entire project is finished, the Madison Parks Department is scheduled to take over the maintenance of the trail, according to Pritchard.

• For more information about the Heritage Trail of Madison visit www.heritagetrailofmadison.org.

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