Officials seek residents’ input on master trail plan

NEW PALESTINE — Passers-by traveling along Gem Road in New Palestine likely notice how many walkers, runners and bicycle riders use a small stretch of a sidewalk along the road there.

The small trail, about a half-mile long from the Cedar Creek to the Crystal Heights subdivision, took years to plan and install and was the beginning of what organizers hoped would become a much larger trail system. Now that the pathway has become so popular, town officials have decided to get serious about installing more paths and have planned a public meeting for feedback on the next steps.

“There’s not much of a sidewalk there, but it is well-used,” New Palestine Town Council member Clint Bledsoe said.

Town officials will have an open house from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the New Palestine Town Hall, 42 E. Main St., to get public input on a master plan covering bicycle and walking paths. Members of the consultant firm will be available to discuss goals, potential routes and any community concerns that arise.

The creation of a trail master plan is an effort to better the quality of life for residents and increase economic development opportunities, town officials said.

“We’re looking for ways to get some connectivity with what is already here,” Bledsoe said.

In an effort to get the ball rolling, town officials have hired an engineering firm, Butler, Fairman and Seufert Inc., to craft a master plan for the town’s trail system. Town officials are using $7,000 from a grant received from the Hancock County Community Foundation to help pay for the master plan study. The total cost for the plan is estimated at just more than $20,000, with the town covering the rest of the fee.

They’ve also created a committee of local residents to study the issue. One of the first things the committee decided to do was get feedback from local and county residents as to what they would like to see in a trail system.

Town officials already know one of the first paths they would like to see installed is a sidewalk to get people safely to the Sugar Creek branch of the Hancock County Public Library, 5087 U.S. 52.

Plan commission president Don Ginder, a member of the citizen study committee, said the group is researching grants to pay for installing sidewalks.

Grinder said there’s been talk about a trail expansion for several years.

“Anyone who has ever been to New Palestine knows it is hard to get there and get around,” Ginder said. “We feel like now is the time to make this happen, but we want to see what the community wants.”

Town officials, along with their consultants, said they are working to identify the best bicycle and walking routes for connecting visitors and residents to pertinent destinations, such as schools, parks and businesses. They plan to present their findings to the town council in the fall.

At a glance

What: An open house to gain community feedback on a master plan for bicycle and pedestrian paths in New Palestine

When: 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: New Palestine Town Hall, 42 E. Main St.

Information: Dave Book, town manager, 861-4727 or

Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or