Progress is slow but steady for the proposed Mounds Greenway, as the Hoosier Environmental Council works to get access to land along the White River between Anderson and Muncie.
The proposed greenway would be a linear park and trail network following the White River from Muncie to Anderson, ultimately connecting to the White River Greenway in Indianapolis.
The Hoosier Environmental Council proposed the greenway in August 2014 as an environmentally friendly alternative to the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir. In the five years since the greenway’s proposal, the Hoosier Environmental Council has been garnering support for its development.
The reservoir was originally suggested as an opportunity to boost local economies by bringing in tourism and waterfront housing. Proponents of the reservoir also added that it could serve as a needed source of water. Maloney said there was no proof of the reservoir’s economic benefits and no demand for more water.
Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said support for the greenway is growing and that he isn’t concerned about the Mounds Lake Reservoir proposal.
“Our view is that it’s basically dead but not gone,” Maloney said. “There’s just no credible path forward for that project.”
The reservoir would require disrupting the White River, preventing it from being free-flowing. Developers would also flood 2,100 acres of land from Anderson to Yorktown, which would eliminate a lot of the areas biodiversity, according to the HEC.
The greenway has received support from over 50 local organizations and businesses, as well as from communities along the projected route, including Daleville and Chesterfield. Both town councils signed memorandums of understanding to work together on the trail system.
Mayors across central Indiana – including Greg York of New Castle, Dennis Tyler of Muncie and James Brainard of Carmel – have also voiced their support in letters to Gov. Eric Holcomb, stating how important the greenway would be to their communities.
“The Mounds Greenway would conserve the free-flowing White River, its forested floodplain and the historic resources along its path,” Brainard said in his letter, adding that the greenway would connect communities and contribute to “economic well-being on a regional scale.”
Ensuring that the White River remains free-flowing is important for protecting the local environment and biodiversity along the river’s route, Maloney said.
“We want to conserve the natural communities of the river, as well as make it accessible for recreation,” he said.
The HEC sees the proposed greenway as a “missing link” between the trails in Indianapolis that extend to Anderson and the trails on Muncie’s west side.
The organization is hopeful the outpouring of support for the proposal will convince Holcomb to authorize funding for the project. Holcomb has set aside $90 million for trail development in Indiana, and Maloney hopes some of that money can go toward the Mounds Greenway.
The cost estimates to obtain the land for the greenway range from $15 million to $40 million, depending on acquisition costs, according to the HEC’s Economic Health and Environmental Benefits Analysis.
The HEC plans to work with other conservation organizations and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to obtain additional funding.
If the HEC secures funding, the next step will be to purchase land. In instances where landowners are unwilling to sell or grant access to their land for the development of the greenway, the HEC has a plan to bypass those properties, Maloney said.
But the HEC’s goal is to keep the greenway along the White River, which Maloney said may require waiting for property to change hands if landowners are unwilling to work with the HEC.