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Governor marks 100th mile of trail funded by Next Level Trails program

Gov. Eric Holcomb cuts the ribbon on a 2.8-mile extension of the C&O Greenway in Merrillville.
Michael Gallenberger
Lakeshore Public Media
Gov. Eric Holcomb cuts the ribbon on a 2.8-mile extension of the C&O Greenway in Merrillville.

Governor Eric Holcomb marked the completion of 100 miles of trails, under his Next Level Trails program. The governor joined officials in Merrillville on Tuesday to cut the ribbon on the extension of the C&O Greenway.

Holcomb said projects like this connect communities — and offer opportunities for education and recreation. "I think these are almost therapeutic trails, when you really get out," Holcomb said. "It’s almost sensory overload, when you smell and hear and see all the sights that surround you."

He said there are also economic benefits, as companies look to invest in places with outdoor amenities.

Mitch Barloga is the president of the Greenways Foundation of Indiana and an active transportation planner with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. He said trails are some of the best investments a community could make.

"Look where we’re at," Barloga told those gathered on the trail for Tuesday's ribbon cutting. "We’re in a walking distance from one of the busiest highways in Northwest Indiana, State Road 55, but you wouldn’t know it. You’re off the grid. You’re connecting with nature. You’re connecting with what this region should be providing you."

The 2.8-mile extension of the C&O Greenway was actually two related projects, with $1.4 million dollars given to Merrillville and more than $804,000 to Lake County Parks. Barloga said it connects the heart of Merrillville to the rest of the region's trail network.

"The C&O connects to the Oak Savannah Trail, which connects to the Erie Lackawanna Trail," Barloga explained. "In one place, you can go many, many miles and basically lose yourself in our great region."

In the future, Barloga hopes to extend the C&O Greenway another five or six miles in the other direction to the Lakes of the Four Seasons area, where it could potentially connect to other corridors.

Since it launched, Next Level Trails has provided $180 million dollars to 89 projects across the state. Holcomb is hopeful that momentum will continue under the next governor, even if the candidates running for the job haven't made it a priority yet.

"This is educational, in and of itself, meeting people on the ground who are making things happen, who are growing their communities, and that local-state partnership is very persuasive," Holcomb told reporters during Tuesday's event.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.