Center Grove Trails Expanding
Writer / Alaina Sullivan
Center Grove residents will soon have a safer and easier way to walk, run and bike with the dedication of two new trails expected this November. These trails are possible thanks to a local organization of volunteers, known as Center Grove Trails, Inc. (CGT).
CGT, a nonprofit organization, was created in 2007 to bring more trail routes to the Center Grove area. In order to fund the project, CGT applied for the federal grant program Safe Routes to School. The application for the grant totaled 20 pages, which CGT was able to complete with assistance of the Johnson County Highway Director and Johnson County Commissioners. They were soon awarded the federal grant, making the CGT project the very first trails to be built in the Center Grove area.
The first trail starts at Brentridge Estates and ends at Center Grove Elementary School. The second trail is along Stones Crossing Road, beginning at the Forrest Hills subdivision and connecting to a sidewalk close to the Center Grove Community School Corporation Administration Building. Both will have pedestrian bridges crossing over Honey Creek.
The project has been anything but easy for CGT. “Building anything this big in an unincorporated area takes a diverse army of support,” said CGT founder and President Anitia Knowles.
One challenge has been meeting all requirements for the grant. The Indiana Department of Transportation has been very specific on materials and designs, and each had to be approved every step of the way. CGT, along with Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), examined the location of roads, schools and residential neighborhoods to determine which would be the best place offering the most impact for use of the trail.
Typical to any building project, costs increased as time passed getting all the required studies and approvals passed said Knowles. Drainage issues along Morgantown Road caused further delays. Overall, the total funding for both projects came to a grand total of $719,000.
“Eight years later, the asphalt off road pathway is finally being put down,” said Knowles. “We see people using this trail every day!”
The final piece in both trail projects will be the pedestrian bridges, which are expected to be installed in late November 2014. CGT, along with the Johnson County Highway Department plans to host a ribbon cutting ceremony when both trail projects are completed. The ribbon cutting will take place during a weekday so that all stakeholders in the project can attend.
The volunteers in the project are many, said Knowles. The short list totals around 25 volunteers. However, CGT has also received financial support, legal support, engineering support and corporation backing from local groups, agencies and businesses. First Merchants Bank Foundation, formerly known as Lincoln National Foundation, rewarded two grants for the project, which have been extremely helpful in completing both projects. The group also collaborated for a time with the Center Grove Community School Corporation to discuss building trails in and around school property.
“If you would like a rough estimate of our volunteer board members, all those we have received help from, it would be hundreds,” said Knowles. “There is overwhelming support in our community for having trails or off road pathway as well as for on road bicycle routes.”
One Center Grove resident, Marguerite Casey, was generous to the point of giving the group permission to have the pedestrian bridge come onto her property in Forrest Hills along Stones Crossing, said Knowles.
CGT hopes that these trails could be used by the community for not only individual use but also community events. Carefree North and Carefree South have a 25-mile loop heading south from Carefree. The path is marked on the road with a round shape and a store emblem for local bicycle shop Gray Goat. Weekend bicycle routes often take place along this route.
“I feel trails are fantastic way for our neighbors to get outside and exercise, walk to the schools events and enhance property values,” said Knowles. “Some types of trails can even improve economic development such as what we have seen in Broad Ripple. Along those trails a person can stop and enjoy a coffee or pizza.”
Are there any future projects? CGT definitely hopes so, said Knowles, though they would prefer to celebration the completion of these two trails first. Although they are in the distant future, the CGT board is looking into another marked bicycle route.
“Center Grove is a beautiful community with great people and I hope we can see more trails built for everyone to use,” said Knowles.