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More happy trails on the way

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

Knightstown, home of Hoosier Gym, is also at the epicenter of another physical fitness gem that could help bring fiscal strength to the community.

Town Council members recently heard an update on the National Road Heritage Trail from Greg Midgley, president of the group, and Jeff Ray of Henry County Healthy Communities. Knightstown is one of the legs of the trail which is planned to extend through eight counties. The route goes from Terre Haute in Vigo County to Clay, Putnam, Hendricks, Marion, Hancock, Henry, and Wayne counties.

“I’m really excited about Henry County’s and Knightstown’s potential with this project,” Midgley said.

Ray said where Henry County is concerned, the group is looking to add another mile of trail east of Dunreith from Road 125W to Road 225W this year.

“What has changed the whole game is $90 million of Next Level trails money,” Ray told the Knightstown Town Council. “We are continuing to work toward buying an additional corridor to make this 20 miles throughout Henry County possible. Just last week, we closed on about a half mile just west of Knightstown.”

Trail plans include canoe and kayak access for Knightstown and Carthage, Ray added.

Town Council member Roger Hammer was pleased with the news.

“I don’t think we can underestimate the potential for access to the river,” Hammer said. “Trail heads bring people in town. Those are very big draws.”

New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. President Corey Murphy also encouraged board support of the trails program.

“I think there is a real opportunity with the trails and moving forward, the quality of place and quality of life your community offers,” Murphy said. “I think your community can offer those things, maybe more so than any other community in our county.”

Murphy pledged EDC support of Knightstown through a market analysis to help attract needs here like a grocery store or daycare center as well as a revolving loan fund to help existing businesses or entrepreneurs. He also cited the EDC’s funding for Phase 1 environmental studies that could be available here.

Ray said if land acquisition discussions with three property owners go well, Knightstown could ultimately be connected to an 11.5-mile trail that would go all the way to the Lewisville Cemetery via an abandoned railroard corridor.

“Knightstown has a tremendous opportunity to be connected to the trail going east as well as in the future going west,” Midgley said.

According to Midgley, 69 miles of the planned 160 are now open on the National Road Heritage Trail. Two-thirds of that is paved, with one-third either crushed stone or natural surface. He said the longest continuous section to date is a 15-mile stretch through Indianapolis.

“Nine miles will be added in the next two years and with the governor’s trail grants program, you’ll see more of these sections get connected,” Midgley said.

Ray has championed county trails for more than a decade, including the popular Wilbur Wright Trail in the New Castle area and most recently, the Honey Creek Trail that will eventually connect Middletown, Honey Creek, and Sulphur Springs.

Knightstown Town Council President Sarah Ward said to Midgley and Ray the trails group continues to have the community’s support as they proceed.