By Bryan Wells
INDIANAPOLIS—Gov. Eric Holcomb spent his 51st birthday in Speedway Thursday by handing out the first grants of his Next Level Trails program—$4.9 million for new trails connecting Speedway with the west side of Indianapolis.
Holcomb was joined by Cameron Clark, director of the Department of Natural Resources, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Jacob Blasdel, Speedway’s manager as the unveiled the first of the grants to be awarded. They made the announcement at Speedway Indoor Karting next to the B&O Trail where they also took a moment to present the governor with a cake to celebrate his birthday.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the Next Level Trails grant awards at the Speedway Indoor Karting facility Thursday. Photo by Bryan Wells, TheStatehouseFile.com
“It’s the month of May, we’re in Speedway, what a perfect place to waive the green flag to start this race to building out our state from the ground level up,” Holcomb said. “We love racing, we love winning, it’s a big win for Indiana.”
In this first round, the program is providing almost $25 million dollars in grants to 17 communities and non-profit organizations to develop 42 miles of trails. Grant recipients made matching contributions to the projects, which included money, land and other donations.
The program splits $90 million in grant money with regional projects receiving $70 million in funds and local projects receiving $20 million in funds.
When choosing applicants eligible to receive funding, the Department of Natural Resources received twice as many applications than expected. They received a total of 82 applications for projects that were located in 42 counties throughout the state.
The funding for the 240 miles of new trails from all the applications received added up to nearly $144 million, far above the budget for the states’ first round of the Next Level Trails program.
Diana Virgil, president for B&O Trail Association Inc., explained that she has had multiple people ask her about when the trails were going to be more useful and easier to get to one place to another.
“I’ve had people tell me that they want to be able to ride their bike to work downtown, and then ask me when I would ever get it done. Well, now we are going to get it done,” Virgil said. She emphasized that it’s her goal to keep expanding the trails and connecting communities, while also keeping Hoosiers healthier.
The trails program is part of the governor’s overall Next Level Connections infrastructure program, which is funded through a renegotiated toll road contract that is also accelerating construction of several highway projects.
DNR will open the application again later this year. Three rounds of funding are planned.
Bryan Wells is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalists.