County trails plan moves forward

GREENFIELD — A plan laying out options for connecting Hancock County trail systems could be complete by 2018, officials said.

City, town and county governments, along with healthcare leaders across the county, have raised the $90,000 needed for a consultant to map out the next steps, said Amanda Everidge, Hancock Regional Hospital healthy community manager.

“We had really great support from the community,” she said. “It was easier than we thought it would be.”

Creating the plan to connect Hancock County’s trails is expected to take about nine months and will include public input collected from county citizens at community events that have yet to be chosen, said Greenfield zoning administrator Joanie Fitzwater.

A $25,000 grant came from the Hancock County Community Foundation’s 25th anniversary Celebrating Communities program, while the Hancock County Tourism Commission provided another $25,000 grant, Fitzwater said. Proceeds from the 2017 Hancock Flat 50 bike ride through the county brought in about $18,000 as well, she said.

Each town or city participating in the project contributed to the cost of creating the plan, Fitzwater said. It also received contributions from the Hancock Economic Development Corporation, several county schools and small businesses.

Earlier this year, the committee overseeing the project selected Indianapolis-based Butler, Fairman and Seufert Civil Engineers to serve as consultants on the project. The firm will work alongside Health by Design, an initiative of Indianapolis nonprofit Alliance for Health Promotion, to create the trail plan.

Their next steps will include not only deciding the most logical and safe connection points but identifying what materials to use, whether existing features need to be reworked and where private property will need to be purchased.

The group of stakeholders wants to build and connect trails throughout the community to encourage users to visit historical county sites, so the trail map will note important Hancock County landmarks, Fitzwater said. The Hancock County Plan Commission, led by Mike Dale, county building and planning departments executive director, is overseeing the project and will adopt it as the county’s trail plan, and each of the communities aims to adopt the plan as well, she said.

Having the whole county on board with the plan will help with grant funding when the committee is ready to put the plan into action, she said.

The first meeting between stakeholders and the consulting firm is slated for next month, she said.

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or rhatcher@greenfieldreporter.com.