We were thrilled to be part of the ribbon cutting for the River Greenway Trail, connecting the Maple Heart Trail and downtown Elkhart. The event at the Elkhart Environmental Center featured Gov. Eric Holcomb touting the value of trails in the state. He proclaimed that trail development is economic development. So far, Indiana has invested more than $180 million in trails, including a new round of $30 million in grants that will be awarded this fall.
The Michiana Area Council of Governments gave the City of Elkhart a Clean Air Award a few weeks before the ribbon cutting. The city received $642,600 from the state of Indiana and $110,000 from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County to construct about a mile of new trail, improve sidewalks, signage and install a new trailhead at the Elkhart Environmental Center.
Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson, Sandi Schreiber of the Elkhart Redevelopment Commission, and Ovie Dumuje, a West Side Middle School student who was acting mayor for the day, all spoke.
Brittany Short praised the collaboration and thanked the city and state leaders.
Her comments, which follow, also put the River Greenway into a larger context:
“The River Greenway is both a wonderful recreational asset for this community and a crucial piece of a regional active transportation super-highway network. Locally, this project safely connects the River District and downtown Elkhart to three communities to the east: Middlebury, Goshen, Shipshewana.
In terms of car-based transportation, we all understand that highways are critical infrastructure — they get us from one place to another quickly and efficiently. However, our streets and roads are equally important and connect our homes to all the places we need to go in our daily lives.
In the same way that we think about those streets, roads, and highways, this trail connection is one important piece of an exciting new wave of planning and development for our county. A future where there are choices in safe transportation. Trails are essential for those who choose to ride their bikes for their health, and to those who can’t drive cars–for medical or financial reasons. We’re beginning to understand that it’s important to build places for the people that live here, not just those who are passing through.
Connect in Elkhart County is an initiative led by the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, whose placemaking committee noticed the great trails we have locally, but that more needs to be done. We are working with local government leaders and volunteers who are passionate about this effort to knit our trails together and connect all our communities in the county and region.
As we make plans to add more miles to our superhighway network — Elkhart to Mishawaka, Nappanee to Wakarusa, Bristol to Middlebury (to name a few) — an immense amount of collaboration and planning will be necessary. But I have never been more certain that we are up for that task. In the years to come Elkhart County will become more connected, and as a result, become a place of opportunity and even more vibrancy. The River Greenway is an example of what success can, and should, look like.”