Editorial: 1821 Trail project puts best foot forward

Barely making the year-end, city and county leaders last week gathered in a chilly rain to break ground on a bicentennial-year project that connects Columbus and Bartholomew County’s past with its future.

The 1821 Trail extension downtown had been viewed as the seminal project during the bicentennial year, and the ceremonial beginning of construction marked a last hurrah of sorts for our yearlong 200th birthday celebration.

“How appropriate that we are breaking ground for the 1821 Trail, which is a long-lasting legacy project, which is going to permanently mark this moment in time, as we are celebrating 200 years of ‘common ground,’” said Diane Doup, co-chair of the bicentennial committee.

About $1.7 million in public money will be invested in the new trail and needed water line upgrades in the heart of Columbus. Dave O’Mara Contractors of North Vernon was awarded the job after submitting the lowest bid. Such spending on public amenities is difficult to quibble with, particularly as a regional legacy piece that was widely popular among those who told leaders what they would like to see as bicentennial projects.

The trail extension will run along First Street, linking the Haw Creek Trail at Lafayette Avenue to Water Street. This new section will connect to 27 miles of trail throughout the city, and it is positioned to become a focal point of Columbus’ People Trail.

It can’t be stressed enough how important amenities such as these are to establishing a sense of place and building a desirable community. The People Trail is an aptly named asset that serves to preserve and honor our past. It will continue to be of greater importance in showcasing Columbus as the open and welcoming place we know it to be. That’s particularly true if our community hopes to appeal to young, talented, active professionals who crave such amenities.

And in the People Trail, we have a real gem that’s worth bragging about. It’s OK to boast if you can back it up, and according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, our trail is the state’s longest destination trail contained within a city. It’s a tad longer, for example, than the Monon Trail, one of Indianapolis’ most popular recreational assets. Indy’s pedestrian and bike trail stretches clear to Westfield.

If there’s anything we should be able to agree on amid this pandemic, it’s that we sure can use all the inviting and open natural spaces we can get. Parks and recreation are among the most popular things our local government provides, and we should recognize how fortunate we are to have these assets available to everyone in our community and to those who visit.

Another nice thing about the 1821 Trail project is people can have some buy-in and a sense of ownership. For $100, you can order a personally engraved commemorative brick that will make up part of the new trail. Think of it as your own personal historical marker and legacy piece. Information about commemorative bricks is available at www.columbus.in.gov/bicentennial/1821-bicentennial-trail-brick-information.

Perhaps some of the best news about the 1821 Trail extension is that, according to officials, it’s expected to be completed this summer. We’re looking forward to it.