As Greenwood officials look to expand the city’s 35-mile network of trails, they’ve had to be creative when looking for paths through already developed parts of the city and finding ways to safely get people across busy streets.
That means following creeks and utility easements to find ways through neighborhoods, purchasing and demolishing homes in key locations to allow trails to connect, and researching new types of crosswalk signals.
For example, a $13,000 feasibility study is underway to determine how a multi-use trail could be put along Pleasant Run Creek between Main Street and Fry Road that would be used to connect Northwest Park to Westside Park, Greenwood Parks and Recreation Director Rob Taggart said.
The trail, which would be about 1 mile long, needs a feasibility study because of the complications related to constructing the trail along the creek, he said. When that trail could be constructed and how much it could cost haven’t been determined yet, but the city plans to conduct a public meeting about the potential project before the end of the year.
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Another trail, which would follow Pleasant Run Creek between Northwest Park and Northwest Park Annex, could be built as soon as next year, Taggart said.
With the help of a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, the Greenwood Stormwater Department is purchasing several homes at the end of a cul-de-sac along the creek in between the two parks. Once those homes are demolished, the land will be turned over to the parks department to be used for a trail, one of the few things that can be built on land purchased with FEMA grants, Taggart said.
The plan is to begin working on designs for the half-mile trail this winter, with construction taking place next year, he said. While the parks department already owns much of the land where the trail could be built, it will still need to get easements from a homeowner to complete the project, Taggart said.
A third location the city is looking at for a trail is following the utility easement — marked by power lines — between Fry Road and County Road. While no plans or timeline is in place for this project, it is one that would be considered in the future, Taggart said.
The parks department is currently using a 2009 study to determine what areas to focus on adding trails. While no update to the study is planned in 2018, one could be done in the next several years to take into account the new development in Greenwood that has occurred the past decade, Taggart said.
Should all these projects come to fruition, these three trails would connect multiple parks and a significant section of the northeast side of Greenwood, he said.
While finding locations for trails often involves being creative in searching for new paths, now, every time the city builds, reconstructs or expands a road, one of the key questions that is asked is whether a trail can fit into the designs, Greenwood Capital Projects Manager Kevin Steinmetz said.
Fitting trails into new projects is much easier than trying to put them into pre-existing areas. Last year, the city had to spend $104,000 to purchase and demolish a home on Meridian Street to make room for a trail along Pleasant Creek that would connect Old City Park with the Amphitheater.
A plan to add a trail along Madison Avenue north of Main Street has concerned some business owners, as a center turn lane will need to be eliminated to provide room for the trail and bike lane.
When roads are built without room for trails and become crowded by homes and business, getting a trail built becomes much more challenging, Steinmetz said.
But if trails can be added into a new project, before development crowds a street, those issues can be avoided, he said.
One challenge with trails is the ability to safely get across roads, Steinmetz said. The city doesn’t have much of a say with State Road 135, U.S. 31 and Interstate 65, all of which are managed by the Indianapolis Department of Transportation, but on its own roads, Greenwood is looking at ways to allow pedestrians to cross safely, he said.
An option the city is exploring as it is in the process of creating plans for a redesign of Madison Avenue, is to put a HAWK Beacon at Euclid Street. This would be a traffic signal, which pedestrians can activate with a button on either side of the road, that has a red light that can appear and stop traffic to enable pedestrians to get across, Steinmetz said.
Whether the city will go forward with this signal hasn’t been determined yet, as the Madison Avenue project remains in the planning stages, but if the the signal is included in the final designs, it would be the first of its type in Greenwood, Steinmetz said.