By Chris Bavender
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy will host its annual board meeting in Carmel this year. It’s the first year Carmel has been selected to host the event, which is set for May 31 to June 2.
“There are several influencing factors, among them that RTC deeply respects the city’s approach to using trails as an economic development and growth strategy,” said Ryan Chao, RTC president. “(Carmel) Mayor Jim Brainard, who has been on RTC’s board since 2020, is admired in the trails movement for his leadership in seeing the potential of the Monon Trail as the city’s town square.”
RTC is a Washington, D.C.,-based nonprofit that connects the nation with walking and biking trails. Chao said RTC likes to host its board meetings in places that are “important and timely — whether that’s because of a project that’s under way or advocacy that’s needed.”
“In Indiana, the time was just right for a visit. We’re currently in the midst of Indiana’s Year of the Trails, which is focused on the state’s increasing commitment to sustainable funding sources for trails,” he said. “This will be a great opportunity for the board to connect with legislators and other civic leaders and highlight the importance of trails as central to healthy, thriving communities.”
Board members will stay at Hotel Carmichael and attend a reception at the Palladium.
“Trails are part of the fabric of every community they serve. In Carmel, the Monon Trail intersects with both of these landmarks, showcasing the intimacy and connection that trails can bring to a place,” Chao said. “It’s fitting that we’ll be able to walk the trail to these two destinations that reflect the history and culture of the community. We can’t wait to see them soon in person.”
RTC board members will also tour the Carmel’s trail system and its “world-famous roundabouts,” Chao said.
“We’ll also be celebrating a ribbon cutting on an extension of the Big Four Trail in nearby Zionsville with Gov. Eric Holcomb. Gov. Holcomb was named RTC’s 2021 Rail-Trail Champion, and we’ll be officially recognizing that honor as part of the ribbon-cutting event,” Chao said. “This trail, which ultimately connects into Carmel, is a recipient of Next Level Trails funding, an innovative funding program spearheaded by Gov. Holcomb.”
The event is slated for 2:30 p.m. June 1 at the trail in Zionsville, where it intersects with Lemberger Boulevard.
The mission of the RTC is “building a nation connected by trails.”
“The past few years have really put the importance of having close-to-home access to the outdoors into perspective. Long before the pandemic, however, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has advocated for trails and connected trail systems as essential community assets,” Chao said. “When it is convenient and safe for people to walk and bike where they want to go and to be active outside, we can unlock all the benefits of trails — positives for our health and well-being, for our climate and for the resilience of all types of cities and towns.”