By Will Riddell
During a June 1 visit to Zionsville, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb was named a Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion, becoming the first acting governor to receive the honor.
The award was given to Holcomb by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an organization based in Washington, D.C., that promotes healthy living through the use of trails like Zionsville’s Big-4 Rail Trail. Holcomb is the 40th recipient of the Doppelt distinction, named in honor of the late rail-trail philanthropist and advocate Jeffrey L. Doppelt.
Other dignitaries in attendance included Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources Director Dan Bortner and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy President Ryan Chao.
Following the award presentation, Holcomb helped to open the new southern portion of the Big-4 Rail Trail with a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside of Zionsville Town Hall. The southern expansion of the trail connects to the new Overley-Worman Park, which is nestled between the Vonterra neighborhood and Eagle Creek.
Holcomb’s commitment to Indiana’s trails has come primarily through the Next Level Trails program, which is investing $150 million to develop local and regional trails across the state. Holcomb said at the ceremony that trails not only bridge rural and urban communities, but can bridge different cultures.
The Next Level Trails program falls under Holcomb’s Next Level Connections program, which focuses on infrastructure throughout the state.
Brainard said it’s important that Indiana residents have access to amenities such as trails, especially since the state has no mountains or oceans.
“We’re not San Diego,” Brainard said.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy President Ryan Chao believes that what Holcomb is doing in Indiana can serve as an example to states. Aside from the Big-4 Rail Trail, Chao and his team also visited Carmel’s Monon Trail and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail during their time in the Hoosier state.
“(Holcomb) just understands that they’re not just nice amenities to have, they’re critical for the health and wellness of people in communities,” Chao said. “It takes someone like that who understands people and what they need to really then lead in the way he has.”
Learn more about Indiana’s trails at in.gov/dnr/state-parks/recreation/trails.