We have seen headline after headline of local leaders taking steps to identify and foster a sense of place in their corners of Indiana. From redevelopment of old, historic downtowns to the creation of city centers in emerging suburban powerhouses, place-making has never been more important to the long-term sustainability of our communities.

Vibrancy of the human experience in our communities has positive impacts on the culture, health and economic stability of our cities and towns. Greeting friends on a trail or gathering in public spaces are important components to our overall satisfaction with the everyday. When communities takes steps to actively create these places—like seen in Noblesville and Fishers with the continuation of the Nickel Plate Trail—it is truly an investment into the celebration of the many facets of life in Hamilton County.

The Nickel Plate Railroad was the foundation for communities along its path; bringing richness and prospect to the towns it served. I can think of no better way to celebrate the heritage of Noblesville and Fishers than to transform the Nickel Plate Railroad into a destination that encourages the further development of these ideas.

By recognizing the cultural and historical significance of the Nickel Plate Railroad, we have the opportunity to incorporate recreation, education and interaction into single-user experiences. As progress moves forward and communities change, this rail to trail initiative will preserve the historic transportation corridor in ways that are more consumable to the masses.

We don’t have to look any further than the Monon Trail for proof of this concept. With historical bridges still intact, original train stops transformed into eateries, and way-finding signage immersing an estimated 4,000 users a day into the rich story of the Monon Railroad, the Trail has become a must-see destination and economic catalyst for development along its path. Visitors commute to cultural districts, runners and cyclists train for competitions, and residents get their daily exercise on this regional attraction that connects downtown Indianapolis as far north as Westfield. It is estimated that up to 250K people use the Nickel Plate Trail from Kokomo to Rochester annually. 

It is inspiring to see officials from Fishers, Noblesville and Hamilton County coming together to increase opportunity for our region and beyond. By connecting neighborhoods to shopping districts, local parks and regional tourist destinations, like Connor Prairie or Morse Reservoir, the continuation of the Nickel Plate Trail launches a further effort toward making this region of Hamilton County a desired destination with a rich story to tell.

Scott A. Baldwin, Envoy, Inc.

Previously published by the Indianapolis Star: Letter To Editor

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