NEW ALBANY — The Greenway linking New Albany, Clarksville and Jeffersonville along the banks of the Ohio River soon will be completed, after years of planning and work. It will be a one-of-a-kind concrete path that will be a walker’s or runner’s dream.
In a few years, another trail may be available to local residents, but this one will link Floyd with Clark, Washington, Orange and Lawrence counties and be 63 miles long. It will start in New Albany, in the rear of Indiana University Southeast, and end in Bedford. The Rails to Trails idea is still in its infancy, but like the Greenway, the potential is there for a one-of-a-kind trail.
“I am really excited about it,” New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan, who has taken the lead in moving the process along, said. “I think it’s fascinating, and the head of the trail would start here in New Albany. It’s basically the back way to Bloomington and the terrain is just beautiful.”
The 63 miles of abandoned CSX train tracks would be replaced by a walking path. CSX is on board with the idea but it will take money to purchase property along the way and to fund construction costs. It won’t happen overnight. Gahan said the cost could be upward of $40 million, but that is just an estimate. Some property owners have already been approached about selling land.
The city filed necessary paperwork in January with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to turn the track into a trail.
“Hopefully it will take half the time as the Greenway,” Gahan said. “I think it could be something spectacular to New Albany. The health piece to this is really important and it will just be one more connection with Indiana.”
Gahan has already talked with leaders from other counties and communities where the trail will go through and said they are supportive of the idea. But he said negotiations for land acquisition, and getting the necessary funding, will be challenging.
“I am confident we will succeed,” he said.
The idea received a boost last month when Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that $90 million will be available in state grants that will encourage communities to grow the state’s trail system. Gahan said the city hopes to get a piece of those funds to help develop the trail which would be the longest in the state.
“I think it’s an exciting thing,” New Albany City Councilman Bob Caesar said at Monday’s council meeting. “It’s a big deal for New Albany. This can be a big shot in the arm.”