HANCOCK COUNTY — Officials from Hancock County’s towns and cities are working together to create and eventually implement a plan to connect trails throughout the county.
City and town leaders have teamed up to launch a committee of community stakeholders who will chase funding opportunities to cover the cost of creating a countywide trail plan and eventually oversee the effort to implement it.
The committee already has garnered financial support from the Hancock County Tourism Commission, which recently voted to give the group $25,000 toward paying for a consultant to help with the project. The commission voted to split the $25,000 into two payments, one in 2017 and one in 2018, and made the provisions contingent on each community also contributing toward the effort.
Members of the temporary coalition are also working on an application for a $25,000 Hancock County Community Foundation Celebrating Communities grant, which would also be used to pay the consultant, who will create a map connecting all of the county’s existing trail systems to one another.
The group wants to build and connect trails throughout the community to encourage users to visit historical county sites, so the trail map will make mention of important Hancock County landmarks, said Greenfield city planner Joanie Fitzwater. The plan to connect trails to one another will be added to the county’s comprehensive plan, Fitzwater said.
Foundation officials wanted the entities who typically vie for its Celebrating Communities grant funding — typically split among community projects — to work together for one big grant in honor of the anniversary, so city and town leaders began discussing what they could do, said Andy Ebbert, director of Shirley Visionaries, a nonprofit organization that works to promote the preservation of historical sites in the town.
Some communities were already talking about connecting their trails, Ebbert said.
The development of new trails is being discussed among officials across the county as cities and towns seek ways to help residents be more active.
Beyond promoting more activity among residents, encouraging the use of bike trails can bring tourists and businesses to the area, a trend that can be seen along Indianapolis’s Monon Trail, said Cumberland planning director Christine Owens. The 18-mile trail attracts about 4,000 people per day, she said, adding that businesses from bike shops to ice cream stores have popped up along the trail as well.
“We can become a tourism hub where people will need places to stay,” Owens said. “We can market ourselves with that and stand out from the other doughnut counties.”
Hancock County Tourism Commission treasurer Chris Baggott said Hancock County is still searching for its tourism identity, and promoting bicycling could serve to differentiate the county from the region.
The group will learn whether it will receive the community foundation grant in May.
A temporary coalition to acquire grant funding from the Hancock County Community Foundation meets on an as-needed basis to discuss a plan to connect all of Hancock County’s bike and multi-use trails.
The next meeting will be held 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Riley Park shelter house, 280 N. Apple St., Greenfield. The meetings are open to the public.
Hancock County cities and towns are collaborating to apply for a $25,000 Celebrating Communities grant from the Hancock County Community Foundation to create a countywide trail system. Participating are the following entities:
City of Greenfield
Town of Shirley
Town of Wilkinson
Town of Fortville
Town of McCordsville
Town of Cumberland
Town of New Palestine
Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation