Proposed Cultural Trail in Muncie IN could connect Ball State, downtown, south neighborhoods

Cultural trail in Indy a $63 million investment with an $863 million benefit

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS)   A Midwest community well known for its trail system might soon have more pedestrian and bike paths linking neighborhoods, culture and arts.

Muncie's Redevelopment Commission bought into planning for a new cultural trail through south Muncie connecting the downtown and Ball State University. Up to $50,000 was committed for planning and design of the route.

And that is besides plans to build a trail along Martin Street from the University Village to the White River accommodating hundreds of Ball State students who will live in the new Village Promenade apartment complex on University Avenue.

Mayor Dennis Tyler talked about the importance of trails like the current Cardinal Greenway and White River systems that provide a quality of life attractive to developers and investors looking at the community.

"This will be a living breathing piece of work," said Tyler, about the trail proposed by the Muncie Arts and Culture Council.

Sherry Contos, who directs the arts effort and Marta Moody, executive director of the Metropolitan Plan Commission, offered the concept to the city that links art and culture at Ball State with the Minnetrista Cultural Center, downtown and Cornerstone Center for the Arts and takes a path to Heekin Park and south Muncie.

While an initial concept used Hackley Street, Tyler and others suggested Madison Street be used since the city is embarking on a multi-million rebuild of the old state highway route through Muncie.

Tyler said the city had equipment like Indianapolis to build trails along streets or through parks.

Indianapolis recently invested nearly $53 million in trails connecting its six cultural districts and added public art projects along the route. The plan is to boost tourism and development besides community fitness.

With a large convention business at the Indianapolis Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis projected over 11,000 jobs created and $863 million in investment, about half in new residential and commercial building.

The mayor sees more developers looking at Muncie, with the $60 million Village Promenade and a new $25 million Courtyard by Marriott downtown.

No price tag was offered on the concept, although millions of federal transportation funds have been spent locally for Cardinal and White River trail systems.

And those trails bring out thousands of people ever year for fundraisers, special events and fitness competitions.

The city also plans a trail along Martin Street linking the village with the river and its trail. That will be done in conjunction with new sewers and streetscape for the housing development.That work is on a fast track and is expected to be done when apartments open in August.