The system of Greenways, trails created under the auspices of the Indianapolis Parks Department, has become one of the city"s success stories. Over a million people a year walk and bike pathways connecting various parts of the city. In fact, the Greenways have been so successful they"ve inspired city leaders to imagine the creation of a new form of urban trail for Indianapolis.
This stretch of College Avenue could be part of the Cultural Trail
The Cultural Trail, as it is called by its proponents, would provide pedestrians and other city explorers with a well-defined path connecting many of the city"s cultural amenities, as well as all the major Greenways. Running through a majority of the city"s newly defined Cultural Districts, the Cultural Trail would create a continuous pedestrian loop, with no starting or stopping point. "One of the key aspects of this concept," says Brian Payne, president of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, and one of the trail"s most enthusiastic advocates, "is you"ll know when you"re on the trail - and you"ll know when you"re not." At this point, the Cultural Trail is more a concept than a map. Many of the details about where the trail will be and what it might look like will be discussed at a major public gathering slated to take place at the Artsgarden at Circle Centre Mall on Monday, March 17. This gathering will consist of two, identical sessions in order to include as many people as possible, at 2 p.m. and at 6:30 p.m. Each session will last approximately two hours. "There are trail models you can borrow pieces from," Payne says, comparing what"s being proposed here with examples from other cities, "but I haven"t seen anything that engages peoples" downtowns like this Ö It"s a chance to make the [Indianapolis] experience more diverse and unique." At this point, Payne imagines that such a trail might run from Massachusetts Avenue west to the American Legion Mall and the new Central Library, over to the Canal Walk, then south over to Indiana Avenue and White River State Park. It might then take Washington Street over to Virginia Avenue and from there proceed to Fountain Square, where it would head north, looping back to Mass. Ave. Payne is quick to say that such a route raises as many questions as it answers - all of which will require public input. How, for example, will Washington Street be engaged? And how, exactly, will people go from Fountain Square north to Massachusetts? Just as important, how will the trail interface with the neighborhoods it runs through? While the trail is bound to have a distinctive identity, Payne adds that, "It"s not trying to impose one look all over the city." Among those involved in the planning thus far have been the Mayor"s Office, Metropolitan Planning Organization, Metropolitan Development, traffic consultants and representatives from Indianapolis Downtown Inc., Indianapolis Police Department and affected neighborhood associations. According to Jane Henegar, deputy mayor for neighborhoods, the cost of this undertaking will be somewhere between $10 and $20 million. Funding would be raised through a public-private partnership and include federal and state dollars. Payne says he thinks the trail could provide the Cultural Districts being created through the mayor"s cultural development initiative an important boost. Noting that all of the city"s cultural resources could use larger audiences in order to create capital for future development, he says the trail will deliver a lot of people to the doorsteps of existing organizations, as well as serve as a springboard for new, entrepreneurial ventures. Cultural Trail planners estimate the project could be completed by spring of 2006. First, says Payne, it"s crucial that people with strong feelings about the concept come to one of the Artsgarden sessions to share their ideas. "This is going to have a big impact on downtown," he says. "I believe it"s going to have a hugely positive impact." But, he adds, "If you hate this idea, it"s time to let us know."