Reconnecting with MYPath

With our second annual Water Day Celebration taking place tomorrow, Saturday 10 to 2 in Cooper Commons, our community will be invited to reconnect with our White River and all the creeks, streams, rivulets, and rills that make up its watershed. This seemed a good time for your Owen County Community Foundation to reconnect with our signature project, the MYPath Trail System. So we took a good part of our monthly board of directors meeting this week to revisit MYPath.

Your OCCF has been actively working with our partners for four years now to build a system of trails and sidewalks to connect the Owen County Family YMCA on the west side of Spencer with McCormick’s Creek State Park to the east. The OCCF and those partners, the YMCA, Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD), the State Park, the Town of Spencer, and Owen County have helped our community get a foothold on the larger trail system that will provide many benefits to the people of Owen County and our visitors.

MYPath will join the growing list of trail projects all across the country that provide fun and healthy recreational opportunities for the hikers, bikers, and strollers who come out to use them. MYPath will provide a network of safe sidewalks in Spencer, so folks with mobility issues won’t be confronted with uneven or broken walkways that make getting around our community unsafe. We’ll use our trail to provide a safe path from town to the schools and businesses to the west that are currently a challenge for pedestrians. One of the most important features is a safe school crossing in front of Owen Valley High School.

We also consider MYPath to be an economic development project as families looking for a place to call home frequently look for amenities like a trail system as an indicator of a welcoming community. As local businesses continue to thrive and grow, we want their new employees to choose Owen County as their home and hope MYPath is a selling feature.

MYPath will also offer an easy option for our neighbors who are looking for some healthy exercise. Communities with walking paths show better health indicators like lower obesity rates and lower incidence of the related medical problems. I will add my personal endorsement of the Riverfront Trail section of MYPath as a health aid. If you’re feeling a little (or perhaps a lot) stress in your life, you can’t do much better than to walk down by the river and hear the sounds of nature fill your ears while the sounds of the hustle and bustle of modern life fade away. Watch the river flow by for a few minutes and you may find some of your troubles and worries float away with it.

The same White River that brought the first settlers to this spot two hundred years ago still flows by our back door, often unnoticed as modern commerce goes on without the old river trade. We hoped that by using the river as the core of our trail system, we could reconnect with our old friend. The work of the SWCD to restore the land along the river and the Riverfront Trail is one of the key pieces of this project. Restoring the natural state of the habitat along the river by eliminating invasive species will allow nature to bring back a riverfront that will look and feel much like what people experienced here generations ago. We have now provided permanent protection to our stretch of riverfront land.

One of our favorite aspects of this restoration project is having our local schools join in the project like the sixth graders from Spencer and McCormick’s Creek Elementary Schools have done by adopting MYPath as a year-long science project. And the Riverfront Trail itself was built by energetic volunteers from Owen Valley High School, local churches, and interns and coop students from Boston Scientific.

This project in many ways is about connections. Connections of various civic groups to work together for a better Owen County. Connections of the folks who you may meet along the trail. We hope we establish new connections between the young citizens of our community with a river that they may not have even noticed in the past. Eventually we may even make connections to other communities as a statewide trail network expands. We were excited to hear Governor Holcomb announce recently that the State will invest $90 million in new trails and an effort to connect existing trails together.

So far, MYPath has run up a modest cost of $341,141 with $120,700 coming from OCCF grants and the rest coming from funding partners like the Smithville Charitable Foundation, the Boston Scientific Foundation, the State of Indiana, Duke Energy and many others. If we build it they will come . . . and walk.

If you would like to learn more about life along our river, come down and visit the old girl on the Riverfront Trail just across the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge south of town. You can check out the flora and fauna of our river and check out the restoration project taking place along the Trail. If you’d like to know more about how you can work with your local OCCF to help fund Owen County projects with your charitable gifts, give me a call at 812-829-1725, email me at mark@owencountycf.org, visit us online at our Facebook page or at www.owencountycf.org, or stop by and visit us in person at our office. On Monday, October 1, we’ll be moving into our new location at 60 E. Market Street on the south side of the Courthouse Square.

Your OCCF is committed to helping our communities become better places to live, grow, and work. We value community involvement and a charitable spirit.

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