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Tourism board may decide on funds for creek trail

The Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau board expects to decide at its Jan. 14 meeting whether to invest money in the Indian Creek Trail project.
Trail proponents asked the tourism board in late November for $60,000 to pay for the second phase of the project. Indian Creek Trail Inc. wants to extend the trail some 3,000 feet along Big Indian Creek, from the West Bridge in Corydon to the North Bridge, opposite the Keller Manufacturing Co. plant in Corydon. The first leg of the trail, named “Logan’s Trail,” runs 960 feet alongside Little Indian Creek, from Rice Island Playground west to the Indian Creek General Store.
The trail group believes the extended pedway, along a scenic route beneath a high wooded bluff, would be an asset for tourism in Corydon and provide a safe, paved walkway for skate boarders, bicyclists, walker and runners.
The trail would promote tourism by adding to a visitor’s recreational experience in Corydon, said Indian Creek Trail board member Randy West. “Corydon is unique in that it has two rivers that meet in town. Creekside walkways in towns are very attractive, both to residents and visitors alike,” he said.
But the bigger issue, tourism board members believe, is whether tourism money should be used for such “brick and mortar” projects.
And although the tourism board held a brain-storming session last week, the five members apparently haven’t reached a consensus on the issue.
“I’ve searched for one,” said board president Olivia Orme, adding that she has yet to reach a decision. “I feel (the trail) is a good project, but there are so many good projects we could get involved in.
“I think we need to set criteria for funding such projects,” Orme said. “That’s where we’re trying to get to.”
Following a slide show of pictures he’d taken along the creeks, West, the editor of this newspaper, told the tourism board that the trail group has received $7,500 from the Harrison County Community Foundation for engineering studies on the second phase. The first part of the trail was constructed with a $15,000 grant from the Foundation. Ultimately, the trail proponents hope to extend the pedway from Logan’s Trail to Hayswood Nature Reserve west of town and north toward the spot where the new YMCA will be built.
The request for funding from tourism, though, is one the board must consider carefully, members said.
“The first thing we should do is decide if we want to spend money on this type of project,” said Ed Pitman, a tourism director. “If we don’t want to spend money for brick and mortar, we probably ought to say that. If we do, then we need to decide what percentage of the budget” should be used for such projects.
Director Larry Bennett, an agent with Bennett & Bennett Insurance Co. in Corydon, said if the tourism group decides to become a grant-making entity, he would have to step down. Otherwise, his clients seeking tourism funds unsuccessfully might be alienated. “I won’t be on the board if that’s what they decide to do,” he said. “That wouldn’t be good business practice,” Bennett added.
By contrast, he doesn’t see the tourism board’s setting aside money for the eventual construction of a convention-type facility as a conflict, because that would not be run by the tourism board and would likely be linked to a hotel.
Bennett said that making or rejecting requests for grant funding isn’t part of the CVB mission, which is to promote tourism through marketing.
Tourism director Michael Wiseman said he, too, isn’t sure what the board will do, but he doesn’t think tourism dollars should be used for grants, like a foundation.
He also doesn’t believe such practice would follow the state’s guidelines for spending tourism dollars.
“I’m not sure where we’re going on this,” he said, adding that groups seeking grant funds do have other venues, such as the Lilly Foundation and others.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t ever develop an attraction such as a convention center, but we’re not set up as a community foundation for people to fill out grants to get some of that money,” Wiseman said. “It would be great if we took $50,000 and gave it to community services to buy clothing … but that’s not our purpose.”
It might, however, be appropriate to use tourism dollars to promote or develop events. “To me, if they need seed money, we ought to look at that on a case-by-case basis,” Wiseman said.
Fred Cammack, president of the Corydon Town Council, said he is concerned with future maintenance of a trail and the related costs. “The biggest thing is: who’s going to do the long-term maintenance?” he said.
Volunteers might do that initially, but they usually tire of such a project in the long term, Cammack said.
The town could help with equipment if workers were already working in one of the creeks, but, as a separate project, Cammack said, “I don’t think the town board would want to get into a maintenance project.”
Nor does he believe the county park department, which normally operates on a tight budget, would want to get involved.
Another trail board member, Dennis Mann, who is also a director on the tourism board, believes the creek trail would greatly enhance a tourist’s experience in Corydon, as well as serving the residents well.
“If we don’t approve the funding, I will be greatly disappointed,” he said yesterday.
The trail proponents planned to meet last night to discuss what steps can be taken to address concerns that have arisen, Mann said.