About $3 million from the state has been spent or promised.
About $400,000 has been donated.
Two historic bridges are on their way, eventually.
So when are we going to see an extension of the Salt Creek Trail?
Maybe next year, says trail committee member Bob Kirlin.
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That work won’t be on the middle phase though, where the trail stops now at the YMCA.
The section most likely to be started next will be on the extreme opposite end of the trail, which is envisioned to eventually connect Brown County State Park with downtown Nashville.
The “DNR Phase” will run from the Brown County State Park swimming pool parking lot area, around the back of Brown County Schools’ Eagle Park athletic fields and end on private property near Hesitation Point bike shop and Red Barn Jamboree.
That section is under the direction of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and when work will begin isn’t certain. Kirlin said they want to make sure it doesn’t disrupt the schools’ events since the cross-country course also winds through the woods at Eagle Park.
As for the middle, connecting phase between the existing section and the DNR section, “there’s continual talking going on,” Kirlin said.
“There’s an ideal location, and then there’s a less-than-ideal location,” committee member Diana Biddle said.
The ideal route runs through private property and the landowner has not given consent. The less-than-ideal route follows the right-of-way for State Road 46, along the side of the busy highway.
“I think we’re getting closer, and certainly with the bridges coming that’s going to press the committee to make a decision and get things done,” Biddle said.
The bridges she refers to are currently part of State Road 46 in Clay County, over the Eel River just west of Bowling Green. The Indiana Department of Transportation decided — after months of back-and-forth with a Clay County community group — to transfer ownership of the historic iron structures to Brown County for the trail.
But that can’t be done until INDOT builds a new bridge over the river and opens it, trail committee member Mark Shields said. Then the bridges will be dismantled, taken to an INDOT headquarters, refurbished for their new use and brought to Brown County.
“The last wishful estimate was 2019,” he said. “That’s about the earliest we could potentially see them.”
Their exact location also hasn’t been finalized, though maps showing proposed placement are in a 240-page document on INDOT’s website.
One span will go over the creek in the state park to reach Brown County Schools’ Eagle Park. The other will go on the other side of Eagle Park and may land on another piece of private property, the map shows.
For every yet-undone phase of the trail, at least one key piece is missing.
All the money is in place to do the DNR Phase, but it can’t be finished without the bridges.
All the money is also in place to build the middle phase, but the committee doesn’t have land to put it on yet.
A fourth phase, planned to go from the YMCA under State Road 46 to the Brown County Schools campus, has no funding or land yet, Kirlin said.
Shields, director of Brown County Parks and Recreation, would like to see a fifth phase built from the CVS to the county’s Deer Run Park as well, where hundreds of local kids play soccer, baseball and softball and visitors of all ages enjoy a disc golf course, a mowed trail and a community garden.
But that idea doesn’t have any funding or land either, and it also would have to go across private property.
“It’s frustrating, because I think there are a lot of people who would like to obviously see the trail continue,” Shields said.
The first, three-quarter-mile length of the paved trail opened in November 2013 between the Brown County YMCA and Nashville CVS. It sees nearly constant use from runners, lunch-hour walkers, stroller pushers and dog walkers.
Fitness/play equipment was added last year near the YMCA end, funded by a grant from the Brown County Community Foundation.
Some Salt Creek Trail Committee members have been working on the trail project for 15 years. It received its first INDOT grant in 2004 and was envisioned to follow the bank of Salt Creek all the way from the state park to the county Deer Run Park, according to newspaper archives.
The benefits the original organizers saw were to alleviate traffic, link the parks and downtown, and bring tourists and locals together.
The spur from downtown Nashville to Deer Run “kind of fell off” the map when the committee ran into other challenges, Kirlin said, but the idea is not off the table.
“It would be great if we could pull it off. It would be phenomenal,” he said. “But we’d want to make sure the landowner is on board.”
Getting the trail to connect with Deer Run is the part of the project Shields has had the most interest in, for many reasons.
His department is responsible for maintaining the trail, and just trying to get to town safely and legally from Deer Run on its all-terrain vehicle illustrates the challenges other Deer Run visitors face.
He said local teens have approached parks and rec asking to get a skate park at Deer Run, and he thinks money might be available for that. But without a safe way for kids on skateboards, on bikes or on foot to get to the park from town, he doesn’t think potential skate park funders would pick that project.
And with so much already-awarded state grant money still sitting, waiting for other parts of the trail to be done, he doesn’t think any other grant sources would help, either.
“Trying to get anything accomplished, it seems like it’s one hurdle after the next,” Shields said.
The trail committee meets when new information needs to be passed onto the members. Anyone who’s passionate about the trail effort and wants to join them is welcome to do so, Kirlin said.
“I’m encouraged. We’ll get there. It just takes time. It’s a slow process,” Kirlin said. “But from what I’ve seen from the use of Phase I, people are really enjoying the walkability.
Span: Nashville CVS to Brown County YMCA, 0.75 mile.
Status: Opened in November 2013.
Cost: About $1 million, by a 2004 INDOT grant and a 20-percent local match.
Also called “the DNR Phase”
Span: Brown County State Park to Brown County Schools’ Eagle Park.
Status: Funded, but construction has not begun. Groundbreaking could occur next year.
Cost: About $900,000, by a 2008 Indiana Department of Natural Resources grant.
Span: Brown County Schools’ Eagle Park to Brown County YMCA.
Status: Funded, but route and land acquisition undetermined.
Cost: About $1.9 million, by a 2014 Indiana Department of Transportation grant and a 20-percent local match.
Span: Brown County YMCA to Brown County High School/intermediate school/junior high campus.
Status: Not funded, route undetermined and no land acquired.
Possible Phase V
Span: Nashville CVS to Deer Run Park.
Status: Not funded, route undetermined and no land acquired.
Source: Bob Kirlin, Salt Creek Trail Committee member