Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director, Cameron Clark, announced Thursday, May 2, 17 communities and non-profit organizations will receive $24.9 million for 42 miles of new trail development as a part of the initial round of the Next Level Trails program.
Syracuse-Wawasee Trail Committee received more than $1 million for its Conklin Bay boardwalk and trail project. The project will be 1.37 miles. Syracuse-Wawasee Park Foundation was the applicant. The project is expected to be completed some time this year.
“We are thrilled and honored by the grant from the governor for this very important segment of the Syracuse-Wawasee trails in the Conklin Bay area,” said Chairman Kay Young. “Watch for progress this summer.”
The Conklin Bay project extends the existing trail with one-third of wetland boardwalk and two-thirds of concrete trail. The new trail will extend the existing 11-mile multi-use trail system in Syracuse to Grandview Drive, providing access to three miles of hiking trails operated by Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation, the lakes and Levinson-LaBrosse Wetlands Education Center.
The project includes more than 90 financial partners, including the Ruth Lilly Philanthropic Foundation, Dekko Foundation, K21 Health Foundation, Kosciusko County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission, Wawasee Property Owners Association, Kenneth and Lela Harkless Foundation, Kosciusko County Community Foundation and Indiana Greenways Foundation.
“These 17 projects are a tremendous investment in quality of life for Hoosiers as trails create important connections within and between communities across our state,” Holcomb said. “Our growing network of trails is more than a recreational and transportation amenity. It’s an important tool for economic development by helping Indiana attract and retain the best workforce in the country.”
Holcomb made the announcement at Speedway Indoor Karting, next to the B&O Trail, with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, Speedway Manager Jacob Blasdel and other leaders. The Speedway Trail Association will receive a grant of nearly $4.9 million to acquire and develop 2.6 miles of new trail. The new trail will connect residential and commercial districts in Speedway and Indianapolis’ west side by extending the existing trail 1.7 miles east.
Next Level Trails is the largest infusion of trails funding in state history. The $90 million grant program is divided into two components: a $70 million fund for regional projects and a $20 million fund for local projects. A total of $25 million was available for the first round, including $20 million for regional projects and $5 million for local projects.
The grants awarded in the first round include 10 regional projects and seven local projects from across the state.
DNR received applications for 82 projects located in 42 counties, requesting a total of nearly $144 million in funding for more than 240 proposed miles of hiking, biking and riding trails. DNR reviewed the applications for eligibility; a multi-agency committee evaluated the proposals based on the Next Level Trails program objectives.
In addition to the $24.9 million awarded through Next Level Trails, the 17 grant recipients contributed $12.5 million in matching value, resulting in $37.4 million total investment for trails. The program requires a minimum 20 percent project match, which can include monetary contributions, land value, and in-kind donations of materials and labor.
“The additional leverage provided by community partners above and beyond the program match requirement speaks to the local support these projects enjoy and helps to stretch these dollars for more miles of trail,” said Clark. “It’s exciting to see local governments, non-profits, philanthropy, and the business community work together to build trails.”
Next Level Trails is part of Holcomb’s $1 billion Next Level Connections infrastructure program, which accelerates the completion of major highway projects, expands access to rural broadband services, creates more nonstop flights and pursues the expansion of rail projects in northwest Indiana.
The DNR expects to announce the next application period for funding later this year. Three rounds of funding are planned. For more information about Next Level Trails, visit on.IN.gov/nextleveltrails.