HANCOCK COUNTY — Extending the Pennsy Trail 13.5 miles from Greenfield to Cumberland is a step closer to reality.
As a Nov. 1 grant cycle deadline approaches, the Sugar Creek Pennsy Trail group is inching closer to its goal of raising at least $57,000 needed to purchase privately-owned land to connect Greenfield’s Pennsy Trail to Cumberland’s. Recently, the Hancock County Tourism Commission provided a significant boost — a $26,700 grant.
The group is interested in purchasing roughly 10 acres between county roads 400W and 500W, a stretch of land that lies south of U.S. 40 in the middle of the 4.5-mile gap separating the two sections of trail.
Although the group received permission to move forward from the property owners, purchasing the land will cost about $57,000, said Mary Ann Wietbrock, president of the Friends of the Hancock County Pennsy Trail, a group of residents leading the effort to connect the trail system.
To stay on track with a proposed timeline for the extension and to qualify for time-sensitive federal loans and grants, the group hopes to raise that money by Nov. 1.
The group has approached several organizations for donations and plans to apply for grants from the Department of Natural Resources. The tourism dollars will help the group meet local match requirements for the DNR grants.
“We’re totally excited,” Wietbrock said of the tourism commission’s support, especially because the commission gave more than the group’s request for $5,000. “It was very much appreciated.”
David Dellacca, president of the Hancock County Tourism Commission, said members feel the trail extension is a worthy project that could help attract people to Hancock County.
Trails are often discussed when people consider moving to or visiting Hancock County and are a topic among many business leaders considering selecting the county for expansion projects, he said.
The commission granted more money than what the group asked for to ensure the trails group met the level needed to be eligible for grants.
“There was a potential for a missed opportunity if their funding plans fell short,” Dellacca said. “By putting more into the project now, we’re helping to ensure the money goes even further.”
Tourism commission member Rosalie Richardson said the group is always looking for worthy projects that promote tourism opportunities in the county. A trail connecting Greenfield to Cumberland could bring Indianapolis area residents to Hancock County.
“I think it will be for more than just Greenfield and more than just county persons who want to run, walk or bike on the trail,” she said. “I think this is another countywide project that, when we have the money, it would be good to help.”
The trails group also has secured donations from individuals, businesses and government groups, including Washington Village Apartments and the town of Cumberland.
But Wietbrock said the group is still looking for more donations from individuals and businesses. Every dollar counts, she said.
“The economic impact of this trail is tremendous,” she said. “It will give our community a significant resource in which to participate in outdoor activities.”
The timeline for construction on the extension is still in flux, Wietbrock said, though she added she hopes to break ground on this stretch of the trail within two years.
The Friends of Hancock County Pennsy Trail is raising funds to connect Greenfield’s Pennsy Trail with Cumberland’s.
To donate, visit the Hancock County Community Foundation website, givehcgrowhc.com.