HANCOCK COUNTY — Leaders of an effort to connect the county’s walking and biking trails want residents to weigh in on the plan.
Consultants from firms Health by Design and Butler, Fairman & Seufert plan four public input sessions beginning Monday and continuing until March 1 in Wilkinson, Fortville, New Palestine and Greenfield. These four sessions comprise the first of several rounds of public meetings and workshops that will be held for the project, said Mike Dale, county building and planning departments executive director.
Those who attend will be invited to identify good possible routes, problem locations and landmarks they want to be able to access, said project manager Jason Griffin, a BF&S associate.
Leaders want to know what keeps Hancock County residents from walking and biking for recreation or to get from home to work and help overcome some of those obstacles, Griffin said. They will also use residents’ input to create a list of programs and policies the participating municipalities can adopt, he said.
Providing easy access to walking and biking trails across Hancock County will not only attract new residents but provide an option for residents to improve their health, said Mary Ann Wietbrock, president of Pennsy Trails of Hancock County, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the expansion and maintenance of the county’s Pennsy Trail, which runs parallel to U.S. 40.
“We are already growing, and I think the county wants to grow healthy,” Wietbrock said.
She envisions being able to walk out of her front door, turn left or right and have access to miles of trails.
Wietbrock, a nurse and health coach, added that Indiana is in the top 10 states for heart disease.
“It’s very important to me that people have a safe place to ride and walk for the health benefits of it,” she said.
The county-wide trails plan effort began more than a year ago when community leaders banded together to apply for a $25,000 Hancock County Community Foundation grant; the county’s tourism commission later contributed $25,000 as well. Some municipalities had already been discussing how they could connect their trails, officials said.
After the public input sessions and workshops, the next step will be for the plan to be adopted by the county and its cities and towns.
“It will be helpful in terms of long-range planning,” Dale said. “It will help us to know where these trails should be and to make plans that accommodate these future trails.”
While it will be years before asphalt is poured to make the interconnected trails a reality, Dale said having a blueprint ahead of time is important so city and county planners don’t make decisions that interfere with the alignment of the proposed paths.
Hancock County Trails Plan public meetings
6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 19, Wilkinson Fire Department, 440 E. B St., Wilkinson, IN 46186
6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 21, Fortville-Vernon Township Library, 625 E. Broadway, Fortville, IN 46040
6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 27, New Palestine Town Hall, 42 E. Main St., New Palestine, IN 46163
5 to 7 p.m. March 1, Creative Arts and Events Center, 2 W. Main St., Greenfield, IN 46140
Community leaders seek public input on the development of a countywide trails plan.
For more information, visit hancockcountytrailplan.com or contact Mike Dale at 317-477-1134 or email@example.com.