The City of Carmel has spent many years and dollars transforming the Midtown section of the Monon Greenway into a place where people want to gather.
The coronavirus pandemic proved it to be a successful project.
Mayor Jim Brainard ordered that part of the trail and adjacent Midtown Plaza be shut down beginning March 26 after the area proved to be too difficult for some to practice social distancing the previous day, the first beautiful-weather day during the governor’s stay-at-home order.
Brainard said large numbers of people were picking up food at nearby restaurants and congregating in the plaza to eat it. He said it was a violation of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s temporary ban on dining in at restaurants, even though the tables were outside. Many of the tables, seating areas and games in Midtown Plaza have since been removed.
“Given the amount of people and proper social distancing, it was too many people at one time,” Brainard said. “We want people to exercise and get out, but that area is dense and so popular that we needed to close that section.”
The Carmel Police Dept. has the authority to issue citations to people who don’t follow the orders, but so far officers haven’t had to do that.
“We’re looking for voluntary compliance to the governor’s and mayor’s orders,” CPD Lt. James Semester said. “Voluntary compliance is better than having to make any kind of enforcement. We would always rather educate than (give a citation). We have not reached that point and we hope we never do.”
Semester said Carmel police are not stopping drivers solely to determine if their trip violates the governor’s orders to stay home.
“There are so many things people can legally do, so we’re not stopping people to find out where they’re going,” Semester said.
The governor’s order requires people to stay at home through at least April 7. Hoosiers are allowed to leave their homes for groceries, gas, essential work and several other reasons.
Brainard said it appears most people are following the governor’s orders, although he doesn’t expect to reopen Midtown Plaza and the closed portion of the Monon Trail during the pandemic. He is hopeful that Carmel’s remaining 230 miles of bike paths and trails will remain open as the weather continues to improve.
“People at this point know what they’re supposed to be doing (with social distancing),” he said. “If they do it, we’ll be just fine. If more trails close, the more congested the remainder of the trail system becomes.”