- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) - A new trail next to the Wabash River - the start of a grander vision - has opened in Terre Haute.

The first part of the Paul Dresser Wabash River Heritage Trail - named after the Terre Haute native who had the honor of composing Indiana’s State song, “On the Banks of the Wabash, Far Away” - is now open for public use.

Currently a half-mile, the trail situated near the river and Dresser’s boyhood home, begins on the south end of Fairbanks Park and stretches south to Hulman Street.

Terre Haute’s chief planner, Pat Martin, said the trail has been open to traffic for about two weeks, but an official ribbon-cutting ceremony is still being planned. He encourages members of the public to start using it to walk or bike. Not only does it meet ADA requirements, it has also been through environmental testing. “It’s safe to use,” Martin said during an interview on Wednesday.

But the crushed stone trail, which was about eight years in the making, is still a work in progress. Martin said that in 2017, the rest of the trail will be developed to stretch an estimated total of three miles south to the former International Paper property near Interstate 70. Later, there are plans to put asphalt on the trail.

“The reason we’re stopping at Hulman Street right now is because we have Sugar Creek Scrap brownfield site under construction,” Martin said, adding that the city is also doing a combined sewer overflow project. The actual construction project has to do with the sewer project and meeting the national mandate to eliminate storm water overflows into the river. But the city also saw the opportunity of turning it into a trail and recreation project. It is “dual purpose,” Martin said.

In the long term, the plan is to add a recreation area on part of the former International Paper property, which is now owned by the City of Terre Haute, Martin said.

But the trail is part of a bigger vision for the area around the river. There are future plans to connect this trail with a campus river trail at Indiana State University, a trail/park being planned on Wabash Avenue called One Wabash and an envisioned “walking promenade” from Third Street to the river’s edge, an idea from the Turn to the River initiative being spearheaded by non-profit organization Art Spaces.

“The grand plan is you could start at the Jones Trailhead at Chamberlain Road … you can take the whole thing all the way in through Terre Haute, through Fourth and Tippecanoe (streets), continue west on Tippecanoe underneath Third Street to First Street, past the ISU Track and Field facility to One Wabash Avenue on to the north end of Fairbanks Park and then down Interstate 70,” he said. It is possible to complete this by 2018-2019, he said.

“In essence … this is the first stage of an entire river walk park,” he said.

The trail may be a tribute to Dresser, but it is also a “passing nod” to George Kessler, a prominent city planner and landscape architect during the late 1800s and early 1900s in the Midwest. He was hired by the city of Terre Haute to design a master plan for the city. Martin said some of his ideas for a river walk roadway are being implemented through the project. “We’re taking his design almost a hundred years later. We’re applying that toward the river,” he said.

An active participant in Turn to the River initiatives and the 2013 Year of the River, Martin said the project is all about this area’s “greatest asset.”

“It’s not just a trail. It’s a grand scheme plan for bringing the river completely back and turning the river from its former status as a sewer and as a landfill,” to a place of nature and recreation, Martin said. “It’s all about the river.”


Source: (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star, https://bit.ly/1CHc9AH


Information from: Tribune-Star, https://www.tribstar.com

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