By Matt Hendrix, The Sun

BOONE COUNTY - Gov. Mitch Daniels has announced $19 million in new investment for trails development as a part of his "Hoosiers on the Move" statewide trails plan.

Today's funding announcement includes $700,000 to the local Farm Heritage Trail. The money will help fund the purchase of approximately 26 miles of former railroad property consisting of approximately 299 acres in Boone, Clinton and Tippecanoe counties will be acquired for future trail development.

"We're very excited about this news," said Richard Stroup, executive director of Friends of Boone County Trails Inc. "We'd heard there might be some announcement (about funding), but you never know until that word comes out."

Stroup said the funding will help purchase trail property from a point along Dead End Road - about a half-mile west of Interstate 65 in Boone County - to Tippecanoe County Road 250 South, with the exception of property already purchased in the Thorntown area. That stretch already purchased is known as the Thorntown Keewasakee Trail, which is part of the larger Farm Heritage Trail from Zionsville to Lafayette.

"The first stage is to purchase the land, so we can work on development," said Stroup.

David Cook, board president for Friends of Boone County Trails Inc., said trail development will come over period of time, but the trail could be somewhat usable once its purchased and the plan is introduced to adjacent property owners.

The local transportation corridor has existed since 1852 and was operated by the Indiana-Lafayette Railroad Co. In 1929, the company double-tracked the line, so modern deeds document the purchase of about 30 additional feet on either side of rail line corridor from area property owners at the time. This is also well documented, because local attorney Willet Parr, one of the founding partners was the railroad company's attorney.

The railroad ceased operation in the 1970s, and tracks were removed in the mid-1980s. A local entity, the JFK Family Partnership, purchased the property in the 1990s, Cook said. This portion of the Farm Heritage Trail differs from many multi-owner stretches of old railroad property, in that it is all owned by the same entity.

"We're in a unique situation that makes the purchase of property much easier here, because there is only one owner," said Cook.

He said the trail will create awareness of Boone County's rich agricultural heritage, but also provide recreational opportunities for Hoosiers from Zionsville to Lafayette.

"Connectivity is the big deal in these trails," Cook said.

For Daniels, the funding decision was part of large vision.

"By making Indiana a 'State of Trails' we not only create new recreational opportunities, but also show the people who can bring businesses here the quality of life that Hoosiers enjoy," said Daniels.

The one-time distribution will be directed to 28 projects throughout the state by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and will result in 104 miles of new trails being built and the acquisition of land for an expected 26 miles of future trail development. Currently, the state system includes about 400 miles of multi-use trails.

"Gov. Daniels really has done a good job of putting this plan together and keeping his word about our state having quality trails," Stroup said. "Hopefully, this will accelerate the trail development process in Boone County, but statewide this funding is going to do wonderful things."

Projects were chosen based upon geographic diversity, readiness to build, connectivity to the trails system, and local support. These funds are in addition to the $20 million the state invests annually as part of Daniels' Hoosiers on the Move trails initiative to connect communities throughout the state.    The 10-year plan calls for every Hoosier to be within 15 minutes of trail.

"The governor's announcement truly marks an historic day for the future of trails and greenways in Indiana. We could not be more enthused or appreciative of his efforts," said Matthew T. Klein, board president of the Greenways Foundation. "It really shows that Gov. Daniels embraces the many economic and health benefits of linear parks."

DNR will manage both the new funding being allocated to local trails projects and the 150 miles of abandoned railroad corridor the state recently acquired for distribution to government entities and local trail groups for potential trail development.

Some of the projects that will receive funding are:

• Historic Collett Park Pathway in Terre Haute. This project will build a 1.6 mile segment of the National Road Heritage Trail Greenway System and will connect Terre Haute's trail and greenway system with the campus of Indiana State University and other community sites.

• Wabash and Erie Canal Towpath Trail in Fort Wayne. The funding helps construct a 5.5 mile multi-use trail constructed primarily along the former route of the Wabash & Erie Canal.

• Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage in Evansville. This section of trail will link the Middle Levee and Riverfront Corridors to create 6.5 miles of continuous trails in Evansville.

• Clarksville Levee Trail in Clarksville. The funds will be used to construct a 1.33 mile extension of the trail that will become part of the Ohio River Greenway linking Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany.

B-Line Trail in Bloomington. This project will build a section of the 3.1 mile multi-use trail being developed along the abandoned CSX Railroad corridor that runs through downtown Bloomington.