The recent segment of the Erie Trail in Starke County is also part of the Great American Rail-Trail from Washington, D.C. to Washington state. The solid line shows existing parts of the trail, while dashed lines show gaps, though planned trails will fill some of the gaps. Map provided / Rails-to-trails Conservancy
The recent segment of the Erie Trail in Starke County is also part of the Great American Rail-Trail from Washington, D.C. to Washington state. The solid line shows existing parts of the trail, while dashed lines show gaps, though planned trails will fill some of the gaps. Map provided / Rails-to-trails Conservancy

ORA – The Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Next Level Trails and Prairie Trails Club, Inc. this week opened a newly completed segment of the Erie Trail in Starke County.

The 2.1-mile asphalt trail extends the 9.3-mile Erie Trail, named for the former Erie-Lackawanna Railroad, east along the former rail corridor from U.S. 35 to CR-700E, near the unincorporated community of Ora. The trail is for pedestrians and bicyclists, and an adjacent natural trail allows equestrian use.

The extension was made possible with a $390,750 Next Level Trails grant to PTC, a non-profit responsible for managing and maintaining the Erie Trail. 

Partners in the project include the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, Greenways Foundation, Starke County Community Foundation, Starke County Highway Department and Luminous Fund.

“We’ve seen trails benefit communities across Indiana,” said Mike Smith, DNR chief of staff. “The Next Level Trails program is proud to partner with organizations like the Prairie Trails Club to invest in Hoosiers’ quality of life.”

The Erie Trail is part of the Great American Rail-Trail, a planned route organized by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy from Washington, D.C. to Washington state. Including the extension of the Erie Trail, approximately 55% of 214 miles across Indiana are now complete.

“The Erie Trail is an important resource for Starke County, and as part of the Great American Rail-Trail, we are eager to welcome visitors from across the country," said Carolla Heilstedt, PTC president. “We are grateful to the Next Level Trails program and all of our supporters for making this extension a reality.”

 

Eric Oberg, RTC midwest regional director, praised the trail and its role in helping make the state a key part of the Great American Rail-Trail.

“Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is excited to celebrate progress toward the completion of the Great American Rail-Trail with the Prairie Trails Club,” he said. “With Governor Eric Holcomb’s Next Level Trails program and the General Assembly’s growing support for trails, Indiana has emerged as a leader in the national trails movement.”

In addition to being part of the Great American, the Erie Trail is part of the American Discovery Trail and U.S. Bike Route 35.

As part of the Next Level Connections initiative, NLT is the largest infusion of trails funding in state history. The $150 million program is administered by the DNR and facilitates critical trail connections between Hoosier communities.

PTC was awarded funding for the Erie Trail extension as part of the first round of NLT, announced in May 2019. To date, NLT has awarded nearly $54.3 million to 35 projects across the state for development of more than 100 miles of new trail. Including the Erie Trail, six NLT projects are complete.

Applications for the third round of NLT are due to DNR by Dec. 1. The third round includes funding for up to $35 million for local and regional trails. More information is available at on.IN.gov/NextLevelTrails.

RTC joined the Erie Trail celebration as part of its Indiana’s Year of the Trails kick-off celebration. More information about the Great American, visit railstotrails.org/greatamericanrailtrail/route/Indiana.

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