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Trail committee, DNR pass big hurdle

State Sen. Richard Young, who recently announced that he is a candidate for governor, helped the Indian Creek Trail Committee and Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources officials overcome a major obstacle in the planning of a walking trail from Mulberry Street in Corydon to Hayswood Nature Reserve.
Young, a Democrat from Milltown and the veteran Senate Minority Leader, arrived unexpectedly at a Dec. 20 meeting in Indianapolis between creek trail committee chair Dennis Mann, Harrison County Park Director Claudia Howard, and Harrison County Convention and Visitors Bureau director of visitor experiences Sean Hawkins, and DNR officials Mike Davis, Steve Morris, Jon Eggen and Bob Bronson.
Also attending on behalf of the committee were trail designer Eric Ernstberger of Muncie, site development engineer Alan Hamersly of Indianapolis and John Goss, former director of the DNR for the late Gov. Frank L. O’Bannon. The CVB has hired Goss as creek trail consultant.
DNR officials have many problems with parts of the 2.2-mile project proposed between the ‘slab bridge’ on South Mulberry Street to the nature reserve west of town. They suspect that two 18-inch-high, 600-foot-long concrete sections of trail poured directly onto the creak bed at the base of vertical rock walls will interfere with water ecology, hinder wildlife of all sizes from moving freely in and out of the creek, and disturb the natural flow of the creek.
If the trail committee is unwilling to create, for example, an elaborate and expensive boardwalk with railing on top of tall piers next to the rock wall, the DNR officials had urged the trail planners to run the route up high on Lincoln Hills Road which overlooks the town and the confluence of Big and Little Indian creeks. In addition, the DNR technicians were worried about setting precedents (for example, pouring concrete in creek beds) they would later regret.
Young attended the DNR meeting in Indianapolis and ‘absolutely’ made an impact, Hawkins said. Young said later that he understands the DNR objections and the fear of setting precedents, but he also said it was the role of government to be responsive and ‘look at every situation and not just reject things out of hand. We should only reject it if it lacks merit.’
He said he knew the DNR, as the state’s official environmental watchdog, was walking a fine line, but as someone who lives on Blue River in Crawford County, he understands the importance of sharing nature with the public while, at the same time, protecting the environment.
At some point in the meeting, Young said, both the DNR officials and committee members started asking, ‘OK, how can we make this work?’ They began by discussing what might be done on the two ‘tight spots’ that hug the south bank of Indian Creek downstream from the area behind the Corydon Post Office: Possibilities include reducing the height of the concrete pedway sections from 18 to 8 inches; gently sloping the creekside of the trail, and providing enough flat iron grates that would allow ‘critters’ to move easily in and out of the water.
After the 80-minute meeting, it was decided that trail designer Eric Ernstberger would proceed with design options that incorporate some basic suggestions made by the DNR, and that DNR officials would visit the site again.
‘When I left, I was very encouraged,’ Young said. ‘That’s the way government should work.’
It’s been a hard battle to get to this point,’ Hawkins said. ‘I can’t begin to express how happy our trail crew is to begin designing and engineering this amazing section of walking trails. It will easily be one of the most beautiful sections of walking trail in the state of Indiana.’