Greenwood Trail System — Don’t Wait for the Future
Writer / Debbie Robertson . Photographer / James Eichman
Living in Johnson County – no matter what level of fitness you find yourself – getting your exercise “fix” means that you have to stay within your neighborhood, take a chance on the county roads or hopefully stay motivated while driving to the gym. However, thanks to clear vision, careful planning and creative fundraising, the city of Greenwood has its own trail system that one day may compete with the big dog up north, the Monon Trail.
With a meager beginning as neighborhood corridor, the Greenwood Trail and Greenway Master Plan includes existing neighborhood sidewalks, park trails, shared-use paths and proposed bike lanes. Each component is vital to the overall grand design of connecting every Johnson County municipality via a footpath.
Make no mistake; to complete the grand design will be no easy feat! Formed in7 2013, with the cooperation of the Johnson County Development Corporation (JCDC), Aspire Johnson County is addressing quality of life issues in Johnson County. A well-designed, well-utilized trail system is just one tool in their toolbox. According to Dana Monson, the director of business development with the JCDC, at times the vision seems impossible. “We’d love to connect the existing trail clear down to Johnson County Park, but there are a number of challenges,” said Monson. Probably the biggest hurdle to jump includes working with each individual municipality in Johnson County for agreement on how best to proceed. Different municipalities means separate laws and regulations, unique physical assets, a “who’s who” of decision makers, varying pocket depths… well, you get the picture. Universal buy-in can’t be assumed.
Convincing runners Carie Ayres and Caseo Noblett of its value, however, is not a problem. They regularly ran the trail near Craig Park when they trained for the Monumental Half Marathon. “I’d prefer it if I could figure out how to use the whole trail and not have to cross traffic,” quipped Ayres. She would have liked to continue her run by crossing Madison Avenue without waiting on the light at Smith Valley Road. The trail recommences on the west side of Smith Valley and continues west to Averitt Road.
However, for walkers Teresa and Donnie Ginder and their friend Tom Kraft, the trail meets all their needs. “We love it and we drive here nearly every day from Franklin Township,” said Teresa. “We walk in the morning and especially like it in good weather.” The Ginders had jumped on at Emerson Avenue and Main Street and hooked up as Tom exited Craig Park from where he could get water and use bathroom facilities.
Today the grand trail design is a dynamic document that has yet to be finalized. However, stretches of it are completed and are described as safe and clean. They can be used all year-round regardless of the weather. For those Olympic hopefuls, this is a plus! And while it appears to be used more by adults than children, those paved stretches are wide and inviting for families. Fred Burton and his Airedale Schmoopie took advantage of the wide berth recently as Fred enjoyed the views while Schmoopie enjoyed the scents. “We normally walk the usual loop which is about 3 miles,” added Burton, an ideal distance for both.
Using the trail system for a variety of uses is what the planners and promoters were hoping for both in the initial planning and certainly with the proposed growth. The greater the variety of uses for the trail, the greater the interest is. The greater the interest, the bigger the number of trail users. All of these factors increase the trail visibility, and awareness is a primary benefit for JCDC’s Monson. “Discovering ways to promote the trail system is one of our goals.” The recent Annual Greenwood Trail Trek, a 5K trail race, helped. The proceeds from the event go toward improvements to the trail system.
Until its ultimate completion, which at best is years away, the Greenwood Trail and Greenway is open for business. Whether its draw is alternative transportation in the form of walking, running, cycling or skating or whether the attraction is its convenience, its natural landscape or its open space preservation, if you’ve not yet sampled its offerings, there’s no time like the present.