By Sadie Hunter
The Monon Trail is celebrating its 20th birthday of becoming a walkable, rideable, recreational path through the state. Formerly, it was a popular rail line from Indianapolis to Chicago and Louisville, Ky. to Michigan City, Ind., dating back to 1846.
And now, 170 years later, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation is celebrating the Monon’s rich history by completing development of another 3.2 miles of the trail from 216th Street west of Noblesville, connecting to Sheridan’s portion of the trail at Lamong Road, just south of Ind. 38.
Connections of the Monon Trail are scattered throughout counties originally associated to the rail line. Hamilton County, however, and its municipalities have made strides in connecting Indianapolis to Carmel, extending a developed trail north throughout the entire county.
At 10 a.m. July 29, Hamilton County Parks and Recreation invited Hamilton County elected officials, which included all three county commissioners Christine Altman, Steve Dillinger and Mark Heirbrandt; county councilors Steve Schwartz and Brad Beaver; contractors for the project, 3D Company, Inc,; representatives from Butler, Fairman & Seufert, the land acquisition consultants and project designer; and media for an unconventional “ribbon-cutting,” honoring the history of the Monon, which consisted of lifting a railroad level crossing to give access to the paved trail at the trailhead at Lamong Road, where the trail connects to Sheridan’s portion.
“At Hamilton County Parks, we don’t always do things the easy way. Somebody said (for this event), we’ve got to get the ribbon and scissors, and we said, ‘Nah, we don’t want to do ribbon and scissors,’” Hamilton County Parks and Recreation Dept. Director Al Patterson said. “So, a really, really special thanks to (woodworker) Mike Roudebush for, within a week, taking this idea and turning into a reality in the woodshop.”
Although construction began in January, this particular section of the trail has been nine years in the making.
“Anything worthwhile takes a little bit of time. The elected officials, I can’t say enough about this group of people that allows us and enables us to do things that are great for our community,” Patterson said. “We are absolutely blessed to have the support we have for the things that we try to do.
“Some of those are easy calls, like the Monon Trail, and some of them are really crazy ideas that they still tend to follow us along on and support us.”
Patterson said the project was made possible by an 80/20 matching grant from the Indiana Dept. of Transportation’s funding program. The project started in 2007 with a $1 million grant for the land, followed by an additional $554,000.
“So, we got 80 (percent funding) from the federal government. Hamilton County matched 20 percent,” Patterson said.
The project also came in under budget upon completion by approximately five percent of its $1.1 million budget, saving approximately $55,000.
“We had 26 parcels of land that we had to purchase, and not all of them were easy,” Patterson said. “Our original budget in our original grant for land acquisition was $1 million, and I think we got all of the land for about a third of that.”
For more, visit hamiltoncounty.in.gov/parks
THE MONON TRAIL’S HISTORY IN HAMILTON COUNTY
Unable to make the opening ceremony of the new 3.2-mile portion of the Monon Trail, a letter from Hamilton County Councilor Jim Dillon was read. Dillon, who was highly involved in bringing the Monon to Hamilton County, served on the Clay Township Board for 17 years and has lived in Carmel for more than 30 years. He was born and raised in Noblesville.
“At one of the first meetings of Carmel Foundation Board that I served on, the Carmel Chamber of Commerce made a presentation asking the board to take over plans for the Monon Trail that they had purchased for $300,” he stated in the letter. “The chamber was somewhat overwhelmed and felt a governmental body should be involved. The board took over the plans and reimbursed the chamber $300. There was not a park department in Clay Township or the City of Carmel at the time … The township board decided we should form a joint park board with the City of Carmel…
“Many of us who were involved (in bringing the Monon to Hamilton County) failed to realize that we were creating beachfront property in central Indiana. The Monon Trail has turned out to be a great economic-development tool. There is great demand to live on the Monon or live near it, or build commercial enterprises on or near the Monon … With the opening of this segment, we basically have a trail from downtown Indianapolis to Sheridan.”
- 1991 – The Carmel Foundation Board takes over control of the plans for the Monon Trail in Carmel from the Carmel Chamber of Commerce, which had purchased the trail for $300.
- 1993 – Hamilton County Plan Commission approves a Hamilton County Alternative Transportation Plan.
- 1995 – Hamilton County Commissioners approve a Hamilton County Alternative Transportation Plan.
- 1996 –County resolution passed to begin land acquisition for the Monon corridor in Carmel
- 2001-2002 – Approximately five miles of trail is developed and opened in Carmel.
The Monon Trail gets its name from the Potawatomi word “monong,” meaning “swift running.”