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Vandalia Trail

 

Vandalia Home

Welcome to Hendricks County’s Vandalia Trail Project


In 1852, the railroad created a vital route that improved the lives of Hendricks County residents.

Today, that route will once again improve the lives of local residents. As a carefully planned trail, the former Vandalia Railroad route will provide much-needed recreational and health benefits, spur economic development in communities along the line, and enhance the value of surrounding land.

The Hendricks County Parks & Recreation Department is coordinating development of the trail on behalf of partners that include the towns of Amo, Clayton, Coatesville, and Plainfield, Friends of the Vandalia Trail, the Hendricks County Trail Development Association and the Indiana Department of Transportation.

We’ve created this portion of our website to share the project’s status with the community. We invite you contact us by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to share your thoughts on the project.
 

Trail Status

 

The Trail's Status
 

Objectives
 

The Vandalia Trail, also known at the National Road Heritage Trail for the historic road it parallels, is planned to extend across the state of Indiana from Terre Haute to Richmond.  A statewide development guide was completed in 2006 by the National Road Heritage Trail group in concert with the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.  The development guide was so highly regarded that it was included in the Indiana State Trails, Greenways, & Bikeways Plan and also declared a Priority Visionary Trail by the state.  Electronic copies of the trail guides can be found under the resources tab.

Shortly after completion of the development guide, the Hendricks County Park Board partnered with the National Road Heritage Trail group to maintain three miles of existing corridor between Amo and Coatesville.  In 2008 the Park Board agreed to lead in the development of the trail.  With the support of county and town elected officials, the Park Board applied for and received an INDOT grant to begin acquiring right-of-way for future trail development.

Once complete, the trail’s western edge will connect with the trail People Pathways has developed in Putnam County, and its eastern edge will connect in Cartersburg with the planned extension of Plainfield’s Vandalia Trail. That means area residents will be able to hike, walk, or bike safely from the east side of Plainfield to Greencastle. Eventually, the trail will be part of a statewide trail network from the Illinois border to the Ohio line.

 

Current Status

 

We are in the planning stages. We know that trail supporters are eager to see us move forward, but projects of this type always take much longer than people expect -- years, rather than months. We’re taking the process slowly to ensure that we make all the best choices and consider all issues.

Part of our planning involves studying other rural trails to see how they address issues that are of concern to our board, our staff, local officials, and local landowners. We want to identify ideas that have worked well in other areas and choose the right ones for this project we plan to develop the Vandalia Trail into a carefully engineered and well-thought-out asset for Hendricks County.

In February 2014, the Indiana Department of Transportation awarded the Park Board $1,928,000 for construction of hard surface trail and parallel equestrian trail from Amo, west through Coatesville to the western county border.  Trailheads will also be constructed in Amo and Coatesville.  The grant was a very competitive process yet INDOT awarded the Vandalia project more funding than any other trail project.  This is a tremendous achievement for Hendricks County!  

 

About Funding
 

We are using Indiana Department of Transportation grant funds to cover the cost of studying and planning. When we’re ready to begin construction, we’ll need to identify funds for that, as well as for ongoing maintenance. Our goal is to leverage as much federal, state, and grant funding as possible so we minimize the impact on local taxpayers.

Trails are not cheap. The days when you could simply bulldoze a dirt path and call it a trail are long gone. We have to meet state and federal standards, along with the expectations of local residents. Rest assured that we are approaching this planning conservatively and will proceed as cost-effectively as possible.

 

FAQ's

 

Frequently Asked Questions About the Project
 

As with any public project, trails create a lot of discussion, along with many rumors and concerns. We created this portion of our website to answer the most common questions we’ve been hearing and to ensure that you have access to facts instead of rumors. Have a question that isn’t mentioned here? This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll respond promptly.

 

Quick Access to the Following:
 

Why did you start this project?

Are the plans complete?

Don't trails bring crime (like on the Monon Trail)?

Will there be patrols on the trail?

How will you keep vehicles off the trail?

How will you keep trail users off my property?

How will you protect my privacy?

Why are you building something nobody wants or needs?

What do trails accomplish?

How much will this raise my property taxes?

How do the towns feel about the trail?

 

 

 

Why did you start this project?
 

Actually, we didn’t. Efforts to develop the former railroad line into a trail began with private citizens and town governments. They asked the Hendricks County Park Board to become involved. Recognizing that a trail was consistent with our mission and would be a valuable addition to our county, the Park Board agreed to coordinate work with the existing partners.

 

Are the plans complete?

Trail plans have been developed for some of the corridor but a lot of work remains to be done.  With the award of the $1,928,000 grant from INDOT for trail construction from Amo to the western county border, detail design of this section of trail will begin in late 2014.

 

Don't trails bring crime (like on the Monon Trail)?
 

One of the biggest myths about trails is that they lead to increased crime. Actually, the opposite is true. The greater the use of the trail, the lower the crime rate. That makes sense when you consider that criminals prefer to do their work when there aren’t any witnesses.

Some property owners have pointed to what they perceive as a serious crime problem on the Monon Trail in Indianapolis. The fact is that the incidence of crimes along that trail is very low, especially when you consider that it’s used about 1.3 million times per year, and that most crimes take place where the Trail crosses busy roads (not on more isolated sections). However, media coverage of those crimes tends to be very sensational. In addition, parts of the Monon Trail are located in urban neighborhoods, where crime is already a significant problem. The Vandalia Trail will be located in a more rural setting. It will be more like Plainfield’s trail system, which has seen very little crime.

 

Will there be patrols on the trail?
 

On most trails, the biggest source of security is the presence of trail users. However, we plan to work with local law enforcement agencies to ensure that rules are followed, and that trail users and adjacent residents have good reasons to feel safe.

 

How will you keep vehicles off the trail?
 

One of our priorities is to use design approaches that will make it difficult for unauthorized vehicles to access the trails, and even more difficult for people to use the surrounding land for illegal dumping. Once the trail is complete, property owners will be able to help us by reporting violators to law enforcement. In other places where trails have been developed, strong enforcement has proven to be an effective deterrent.

 

How will you keep trail users off my property?
 

That’s a key objective for us. We don’t want people getting on (or off) the trail where they shouldn’t. Here again, we’re examining solutions that have been used successfully elsewhere, so we can make the best choices to protect the trail’s neighbors.

 

How will you protect my privacy?
 

Privacy can be incorporated into trail designs in several ways, including fencing and landscaping. We believe it’s important to strike the right balance for each trail neighbor, so they have adequate privacy without feeling like they are enclosed.

 

Why are you building something nobody wants or needs?
 

The reality is that there is very strong demand for this project among Hendricks County residents. When we developed the county’s five-year master plan for parks and recreation, we conducted two separate scientific surveys of county residents. Among the biggest needs that were cited were setting aside additional land for recreation and preservation, developing family aquatic centers, and developing trails to link community resources.

In the recent Hendricks County In Focus survey of more than a thousand Hendricks County residents, calls for additional trails -- particularly trails linking the county’s communities -- were one of the most requested items.

 

What do trails accomplish?
 

Trails have many benefits to the individuals who use them, to the communities they serve, and to property owners who live nearby. For the users, trails offer a much safer alternative than walking or biking along county roads with fast-moving vehicles and inconsistent road surfaces. Trail users improve their health through exercise, which is becoming an increasingly important issue as a larger percentage of Indiana residents are becoming obese.

Communities adjacent to rural trails have seen significant economic development benefits. Trails attract people to communities, where they patronize local businesses. In numerous communities, retail businesses oriented to the trails have sprung up, providing jobs and bringing income into the communities. Trails also enhance the positive image of the communities they serve, drawing potential new residents. The towns of Amo, Clayton, Coatesville and Plainfield are excited about the economic development the trail could provide.

Finally, in areas where trails have been developed, adjacent property owners have seen the value of their real estate climb. Evidence of that can be seen in realtor listings for homes, which often mention the proximity to the trail as one of the primary advantages. Rising property values and greater awareness of the communities also contribute to the area’s overall economic health.

  

How much will this trail raise my property taxes?
 

Trails are not cheap, but our goal is to leverage the funding we have and tap into as much federal, state, and private funding as possible so we minimize the impact on local taxpayers. We are approaching this project conservatively and will proceed as cost-effectively as possible. In addition to trying to keep the development cost low, we’re also concentrating on the ongoing cost of maintaining the trail.

Hendricks County’s parks system receives far less taxpayer support than most property owners realize. For example, if you own a $200,000 home in the county, only about $5.37 of your annual property taxes goes to operate and develop the county’s parks. That’s less than 45 cents per month. If your home is worth less than $200,000, it’s even lower.

 

How do the towns feel about the trail?
 

Amo, Clayton, Coatesville and Plainfield have all given us formal support for trail development and assisted our efforts to obtain grants. Local leaders understand the value this trail project will provide.

 

Resources

Resources You Can Download
 

Interested in learning more about the trail project? Want to share information from this site with other people? We’ve included documents and links that you can download.

2006 National Road Herritage Trail Development Guide

Indiana State Trails, Greenways, and Bikeways Plan

2014 Preliminary Trail Plans

2014 CE Hearing Comments and Response

Environmental Documents

National Road Heritage Trail Website

 

The benefits trails provide to their communities.  Research assembled and summarized by the Rails to Trails Conservancy and other valuable links:

The Economic Benefits of Trails

Health and Wellness Benefits of Trails

Trails Enhancing the Environment

Trails Sustaining Communities

Guide to Trails in Indiana

 

Vandalia Trail Fact Sheet
 

This document provides a basic summary of the facts about the trail project. It’s a great document to share with friends and neighbors who have questions or concerns about the trail project. We’ll update it as new information becomes available. Download

Community Input

 

Concerns Heard From Community Members

The following concerns were received from approximately 35 individuals as a result of the Vandalia Trail Categorical Exclusion Hearing on February 6, 2014. The Park Board appreciates these comments, because it allows us to review appropriate research and discuss topics with other trail providers to learn how they have addressed similar - Concerns before trail development begins. We obtained the information discussed in this document through the Rails to Trails conservancy, the Greenways Foundation, and the managers of the following trails and greenways:

  • Auburn Trails – DeKalb County
  • Bluffton River Greenway - Bluffton
  • Cardinal Greenway –Marion, Gas City, Muncie, Richmond
  • Covington Circle Trail - Covington
  • East Bank Trail – South Bend
  • Erie North Judson to Monterey Trail – North Judson
  • Fall Creek Trail - Indianapolis
  • Fort Wayne Trail System – Fort Wayne
  • Monon Trail - Indianapolis
  • Oak Savanah Trail - Lake County
  • Pennsy Trail – Schererville
  • Pleasant Run Trail – Indianapolis
  • Zionsville Trails – Zionsville


Our thanks to these trail managers for their guidance and efforts.


Community - Concerns Regarding Future Trail Development:

Crime


Concern: Crime in general


As prudent community members, we should always be concerned about the safety of our community. While it may seem that trails would provide an obvious opportunity for criminal behavior, evidence from other trails shows that this isn’t the case.

National trail studies such as the Burke-Gilman Study, Bush Creek Trail Study, and National Park Service Studies, as well as firsthand accounts from dozens of trail providers throughout Indiana, all confirm that criminal activity is substantially lower on trails than in the surrounding communities.

While no place is completely free from crime, trails have substantially lower instances of crime.  As with any recreational facility, the level of crime typically correlates with the level of crime in the surrounding area and the design of the facility.

Current research and anecdotal evidence suggest that converting an abandoned rail corridor to a trail actually tends to reduce crime, because it cleans up the landscape and attracts people who use the trail for recreation and transportation.

Why do people believe that trails attract crime? When crimes take place on popular trails, they are often sensationalized by media.  Many people suggest that there is extensive crime on the Monon Trail because of a handful of widely publicized incidents. When you consider that the Monon trail hosts more than 1.2 million users a year, the crime rates in the adjoining areas are significantly higher than on the trail itself.  In summary, trails do not promote crime, they’re just not exempt from it when crime is prevalent in surrounding areas.

Here are some nationally recognized studies on trail safety:
“Evaluation Of The Burke-Gilman Trail’s Effect on Property Values and Crime,” 
Seattle Engineering Department and Office of Planning, Gary Zarker, James M. Bourey,
May 1987

“The Effect of Greenways On Property Values and Public Safety,” A Joint Study by The ConservationFund and Colorado State Parks State Trails Program, Colorado State Parks, State Trails Program, Sydney Shafroth Macy, Stuart H. Macdonald, March 1995.

“Economic Impacts of Rivers, Trails and Greenways,” National Parks Service.

“Omaha Recreational Trails: Their Effect on Property Values and Public Safety,” Donald
L. Greer, University of Nebraska at Omaha, June 2000

“The Impact of the Brush Creek Trail on Property Values and Crime,” Santa Rosa, CA,
Michelle Miller Murphy, Sonoma State University, April 13, 1992.

The Conservation Fund and Colorado State Parks. 1995. The Effects of Greenways on
Property Values and Public Safety. National Park Service: Rivers, Trails and
Conservation Assistance Program.


Concern: We are currently experiencing crime and dumping along the abandoned corridor, which will only increase

Many of the published studies and the experiences voiced by trail partners throughout Indiana state that the opposite is true.  Illegal activity such as dumping is far more likely to occur on an abandoned corridor than on a trail being used by bikers, hikers, walkers and runners.

Concern: ATV access

We’ve heard two primary concerns: community members are concerned that the trail will be a haven for ATV users and ATV users claim that we’re discriminating against them by not allowing ATVs on the trail.

The trail is for non-motorized use only.  It is being constructed primarily through federally funded Alternate Transportation grants, which prohibit motorized use.

One of our priorities is to use design approaches that will make it difficult for unauthorized vehicles to access the trails, and even more difficult for people to use the surrounding land for illegal dumping.

Once the trail is complete, property owners will be able to help us by reporting violators to law enforcement. In other places where trails have been developed, strong enforcement and frequent trail use have proven to be effective deterrents. 

Cost


Concern: Cost


A number of community members believe that the cost of the trail (an estimated $9.6 million) is far too high and the money would be better used for other purposes.

The funding for the bulk of the cost should come from grants. To date, the Park Board has been awarded over $2.5 million of the total cost from the Federal Highways Alternate Transportation Fund. This money cannot be used for any other purpose than alternate transportation. In other words, it cannot legally be used to fund road repair, sewers, or to pay down the national debt.

This money must be used for the development of alternate transportation somewhere in Indiana. The Park Board believes if anyone should benefit, it should be Hendricks County residents. The Indiana Department of Transportation seems to agree. In the latest call for grant proposals, they awarded the Park Board $1,928,000 for construction of the Vandalia from Amo to the western county border. This investment represents more than they awarded any other trail project in the latest call, indicating that they see tremendous potential in the trail.

One additional note about the cost of the trail: the Park Board doesn’t like surprises. We plan for the worst-case scenario and hope for the best. The advertised $9.6 million dollar estimate for 13 miles of trail construction assumes a number of possible (but unexpected) challenges in construction and a built-in 20 percent contingency. We anticipate (but cannot legally promise) that the actual cost will be lower.

In the unlikely event that the construction cost actually totals $9.6 million, the Park Board will have directly funded just $1.92 million of the cost. The funding will be spread out over time as grants are acquired and funding through the Board’s annual allocation of capital funding. Most important, no taxes will be increased as a result of this project.

Economic Development Doubts


Concern: Economic development


It may be difficult to believe, but trails have proven to be valuable economic generators for their communities -- and that’s much more than the bottled water the hiker or biker may purchase to take with them on the trail.  It’s the eateries they choose to dine in along the way, the businesses from which they purchase their running, biking and equestrian apparel and equipment, and the businesses that tourist trail users visit while in town.  Adjacent property owners tend to benefit economically as well.

All of the other trail managers we contacted agreed that their trails have resulted in increased economic benefits for their communities.  One of the trails that has seen the greatest economic benefit is the Cardinal Greenway, which most closely resembles both how the Vandalia Trail in Hendricks County will appear and the nature of the surrounding land and on-trail communities.

Impact on Adjacent Landowners


Concern: Hydrology, water runoff/pooling


The project will not increase the amount of impervious surfaces within the limits of the corridor, as railroad ballast and fill is most often considered to be impervious. Ditches and drainage will be corrected or improved wherever possible, which should result is less standing water than residents currently notice. All required State and Local permits related to drainage and run-off will be obtained prior to construction.

Concern: Hunting


Hunting on the trail property will not be permitted, but adjacent landowners are permitted to perform any activities they wish on their land. Responsible hunters must always pursue their sport with full consideration for the safety of those around them, whether they’re hunting near a road, a trail, a school bus stop, or their neighbors’ property.

Concern: Incompatibility with farming operations


Many rural trails operate adjacent to farmlands without decreasing the ability of farmers to manage their lands as they see fit. In Indiana alone, the Cardinal Greenway, Auburn Trails, Erie Trail, and others have long operated next to farms without impacting the farmers’ success.

Concern: The trail will split farmlands with no access to fields


The trail design will incorporate accommodations that allow farmers to access fields located across the trail. This is a common trail development practice in rural areas. Through the use of gates and reinforced trail specifications at crossings, farmers can access fields with equipment of any size with minimal effort while keeping trail users safe.
 

Concern: Adjacent landowners will have to keep pets caged


The Hendricks County Park Board would not require adjacent property owners to cage pets. We are confident that property owners will use their judgment and discretion when it comes to managing their pets around trail areas, and follow all applicable local ordinances regarding house pets.

Concern: Intrusion on private landowners


We want to be good neighbors, and have been taking great efforts to minimize the impact the trail will have on adjacent landowners. The trail’s development will not require a single relocation of a homeowner. After hearing the concerns of landowners in the initial public meeting, the trail along 500 South was moved from the rail bed to along the road. On farmland that will be crossed, we will develop equipment crossings that keep trail users safe with minimal disruption to farming efforts. The former railroad’s corridor provides an outstanding opportunity to connect four different Hendricks County communities to a trail that will eventually extend across the state. 

Safety


Concern: Safety crossing roadways


We share the residents and users’ concern about crossing roadways safely, so we’ve studied how other successful trails accommodate road crossings. We’ll duplicate their successes by using strategies such as road markings, bollards, flashing lights, crossing guides, rumble strips, and divided trail access points, and we’ll enhance these practices where appropriate. Throughout Indiana, successful trails safely cross everything from unpaved country roads to major five-lane highways.


Concern: Horses along farm property


The Park Board understands that the farming community has a particular concern with horses along the trail. We’ve not found this to be a concern on other trails, but we’ve not found equestrian use to be as common as personal use. To address these concerns, we will make the town of Amo the eastern terminus for the equestrian trail. 

Need for trails in Hendricks County


Concern: No need for alternate transportation, because everyone drives


Alternate transportation is an important component of individual health, alleviating road congestion, end environmental sustainability. Across the country, more people than ever are choosing to use alternate forms of transportation. The increasing numbers of commuters and growing need for non-motorized transportation has reached such a level of importance that federal funding is available to support these projects. The connectivity offered by the Vandalia is the primary factor that the trail has been so successful in receiving grant funding. 


Concern: Hendricks County has enough trails


Hendricks County is far below Indiana and federal standards for the availability of trails. Those standards recommend trail access within 15-minutes or 7.5 miles of all residents. The most valuable trails connect communities and resources. Although Hendricks County has a few communities with some trails available for exercise, they aren’t nearly enough to serve the entire county and don’t achieve the base goal of connecting communities and resources. 


Concern: Nobody will use a trail that goes through farmlands


There are over 300 miles of trails in greenways in Indiana, and many of the longest and most successful have extended sections that take users through farmlands. The Cardinal Greenway is a perfect example. The trail extends over 60 miles, connecting many small- to mid-size communities adjacent to farm fields. The Cardinal Greenway is also seen as a tremendous economic development success by nearby communities. 

Trespassers


Concern: Potential trespassers


Both the broad research and the experience of other Indiana trails concludes that instances of trail users straying onto private property are extremely rare. The other Indiana trails do not report a problem with trespassers. We will post signage reminding trail users to stay off private property, and will work with landowners to add landscaping or physical barriers in areas of elevated concern.


Concern: Liability of Adjacent Landowners


As stated above, instances of trail users straying onto private property are extremely rare. However, if a trail user did happen to become injured on private property, the Indiana Recreational Use Statue (IC 14-22-10) notes that landowners are not liable for trail users who become injured while trespassing (with the exception of instances of “willful and wanton” negligence).


Concern: Trail cost doesn’t include right-of-way acquisition


The advertised cost actually includes all right-of-way, professional design, and construction services.


Concern: Grants come from tax money


To date, the Park Board has been awarded over $2.5 million of the total cost from the Federal Highways Alternate Transportation Fund. This money cannot be used for any other purpose than alternate transportation. In other words, it cannot legally be used to fund road repair, sewers, or to pay down the national debt.

This money must be used for the development of alternate transportation somewhere in Indiana. The Park Board believes if anyone should benefit, it should be Hendricks County residents. The Indiana Department of Transportation seems to agree. In the latest call for grant proposals, they awarded the Park Board $1,928,000 for construction of the Vandalia from Amo to the western county border.


Concern: Cost of continued maintenance


The Hendricks County Park Board doesn’t build resources without planning for their sustainability. The cost of continued maintenance is not high (based on the costs experienced by other trails throughout Indiana) and is well worth the many benefits the community will receive. Weekly maintenance of a 13-mile trail paved trail will be similar to that already invested in mowing and trimming the grassy 3-mile trail connecting Amo to Coatesville. Future repair costs for the trail surface and trail amenities will be incorporated into the Park Board’s long-term capital budget, for which annual allocations are made.


Concern: The trail will remove taxable land


Originally, the trail from the western county border to Cartersburg was expected to require no more than 56 acres of land. Not all of this land is currently taxable, including the nearly four miles that is currently owns by towns and the Amo Sewer Conservancy. In addition, based on public input, the Park Board ended the equestrian section of the trail in Amo, reducing the total amount of property needed. The trail will require less than 30 acres of taxable property, representing approximately $1,100 in annual property tax revenue. While all tax dollars are important to our community, the investment in economic development, alternate transportation, health, and safety of community members is minimal.


Concern: Increase in taxes


There will be no need to increase taxes for the development or maintenance of the trail.

Trail development is being completed in stages with annual funding allocations matched against grant funding. Annual maintenance of the trail will not be costly, based upon the actual experiences of other Indiana trails. The Hendricks County Park Board is reviewing the frequency, standards, and cost of trail maintenance from dozens of other greenway providers in the state, and building these costs into the long-term maintenance budget.


Concern: Trailheads are not on the plans


Trailhead locations are important contributors to the economic benefits trails provide to their communities, so it’s important that the trailheads be located within our partner towns, or as close to those towns as possible. The Hendricks County Park Board is currently working with the towns to identify the best locations for the trailheads.

More Info

Need More Information?
 

Would you like to learn more about the trail project? Have a comment or concern you’d like to share? Please call us at 317.718.6188 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. us.