- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - City leaders want a more lively Canal Walk in downtown Indianapolis, but don’t envision the area becoming noisy and crowded with entertainment and nightlife.

While they say they don’t have a long-term picture for the future of the canal, they don’t believe it’s fulfilling its potential.

“There are so many opportunities,” city Department of Metropolitan Development director Emily Mack told The Indianapolis Star (https://indy.st/1YAhKi1 ). “It’s this wonderful public asset that has been underutilized. We have an opportunity to create more events and give back to the public.”

That goal includes booking weddings, holding public events and encouraging businesses to look at canal sites, Mack said. Two independent restaurants and the Indiana Historical Society’s cafe are now located along its route.

The department hired the nonprofit Downtown Indy tourism group last spring to promote the 3-mile walkway loop along the canal. The organization held the first Canal Awakens event last month with the launch of the canal’s busiest season, with people walking along it with “passports” to be stamped by businesses.

Last spring, the nonprofit started researching and assessing the canal’s use and how people learned about it. Around 200 people were questioned, many of them tourists who found the canal through hotel direction.

“What we were hearing from those individuals who had just happened upon it, they said, ‘Well, we don’t really know how to get to the canal,’” said Bob Schultz, Downtown Indy’s senior vice president of marketing, communication and events. “And we were hearing that a lot.”

Schultz wants usage of the canal to be more intentional and have “more regular users.”

Research has found that putting up better signs is the first and most obvious step, Schultz said. The Department of Public Works and Downtown Indy are working to find and replace current signs, put up more and add “canal crossing” signs on roadways.

Brian Bokhart, Downtown Indy marketing manager, said there isn’t a timeframe for the completed signs. The signs will be paid for by the city.

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Information from: The Indianapolis Star, https://www.indystar.com

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