Whitestown officials are “very interested” in having a section of the Farm Heritage Trail built through the town’s traditional center.
“There is a lot of support for the project in and around Whitestown,” Dawn Kroh, president of the landscape design firm Green 3, told the Boone County Commissioners Monday, March 19. But, “there are some folks who are not believers at this point.”
The commissioners gave their approval for Kroh and trail developers to ask the Indiana Department of Transportation to “rescope” the transportation enhancement award that is funding the trail from Lebanon to Zionsville. If INDOT agrees, money for the Lebanon to Zionsville segment would be concentrated on the Whitestown section, Kroh said.
Eighty percent of the funds are from federal grants; 20 percent would be a local match, Kroh said. For the Whitestown segment, the local match would be $230,000. The value of land contributed or purchased for the trail can be used to meet that target, Kroh said.
While the intent is to link the rail corridor from Lebanon to Zionsville, some people who have bought former railroad right-of-way have said they don’t want a public trail cutting across their land.
A map of the Whitestown trail Kroh showed the commissioners included red “dead-ends” at either end, indicating landowners who have said they do not want to sell land for the trail.
Red doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent stop, though.
“It is very, very rare that, eventually, people who are opposed don’t change their minds,” Kroh said. “What people like to see is a constructed segment in their area.” Once the skeptics see “in general, it is their neighbors who are using the trail,” opposition fades.
Commissioner Marc Applegate said property along a rail trail rises in value.
“When they built the Monon (Trail, in Marion and Hamilton counties) there was a lot of opposition,” Applegate said. Now, easy access to the Monon Trail is considered a selling point.
“There is always the last person, but even the last person understands the benefit,” Kroh said. “We can always just acquire an easement ... so people can get to their fields and crops, so they can still use their land.”
“Just recently a couple of people have volunteered to participate,” Kroh said. “They do have a property owner in town who owns a substantial area of trail who is very, very supportive,” she said; she did not identify that person.
Kroh said Whitestown is applying for two grants, including a Stellar Community grant from the Indiana Office of Rural Community Development, to fund the trail, which would run about 2.8 miles along a former Big Four Railroad line. It would run from County Road 500 to “approximately” CR 800, she said.
Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said a 1.3 mile section east from the center of traditional Whitestown “is kind of in the middle of nowhere,” while the section to the west of the town’s center “is probably ... workable.”
In many cases, Kroh replied, “we can take a new overland route,” using county roads to connect trail links. “We may be able to come along the edge of a farm field to get to a county road,” she said.
If a trail must dead-end, a turn-around is built so walkers and bicycle riders can use the segment as a loop.
The Farm Heritage Trail now runs from Sam Ralston Road on Lebanon’s west side to Sugar Creek north of Thorntown. Kroh said people in Colfax are working to extend the trail from their community to Sugar Creek.