At the beginning of this plan, we talked

about the how greenways, by definition, include elements of conservation, recreation, and transportation. We

also talked about how these elements exist across a continuum from the rural landscape to the urban landscape, but

may look and feel differently depending on their location.

The previous chapters laid out priority conservation areas, priority waterways, priority trail corridors, and increased access to active transportation and

outdoor recreation opportunities. They also discussed policies, goals, and implementation strategies that support progress toward each. How can NIRPC and the region tie these things together? A number of integration strategies are involved.


The Specturm of Integrated Uses




There are many areas in Northwest Indiana where high priority conservation areas, desirable water trails, and planned trail corridors overlap on

the landscape. By highlighting these geographic intersections, the plan hopes to encourage all stakeholders and communities to consider the opportunities for exciting and synergistic projects. Geographic integration also can help prioritize locations for amenities and infrastructure investment. These could include restrooms, parking, and support businesses. Historic structures

in these areas could be repurposed for public access or amenities.

For example, the medium priority South Lake Trail Corridor aligns with the mid-to- high priority Cedar Creek Water Trail, the Cedar Lake Core Natural Area, and the Town of Cedar Lake’s Greenway Plan for Founders and Cedar Creeks. This

juxtaposition could create an opportunity to leverage partnerships between town, county, NIRPC, and conservation groups

which could in turn attract funding to create an amazing nature-based

recreational amenity for south central Lake County. Figure IV-1 presents a broad perspective on these integrations. Further integration would involve Complete Streets designs to provide safe access to these areas of natural and cultural enjoyment. Sometimes these destinations are only a short walk or bike ride from one’s home or place

of employment, and with the proper infrastructure in place, the need to use a motorized vehicle becomes greatly

reduced. This in turn aides with improved health and cost savings on gas and vehicle maintenance.

Vision 1: Dunes-Kankakee Trail Land Bridge

Currently a major gap exists on the planned Dunes-Kankakee (DK) Trail corridor between the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center, and downtown Chesterton and Porter. A concept to contruct a land bridge on the trail corridor east of State Road 49 over

    1. has great promise on many levels. These include an iconic gateway to the Indiana Dunes, offering a safe and aesthetic experience, and a unique draw for those on the expressway. Just south is the Little Calumet River, where canoe and kayak access can be planned. The City of Vancouver, WA consturcted a similar bridge as seen in the photo below.





      I N T E G R A T I O N

      I N T E G R A T I O N

      Figure IV Integrated Map of Recretational & Conservation Corridors




      Vision 2: The Calumet Greenway Stretching through the heart of Northwest Indiana, the Little Calumet River offers tremendous integration opportunities. The river begins its journey in LaPorte County at Red Mill County Park, and meanders westward into Porter County. Here the river traverses through the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and becomes channalized in Portage, eventally flowing through Lake County, where

      a wide floodplain exists bounded by a levee system. Throughout the majority of this river corridor, large swaths of open space pervade. A recently paved levee trail in Lake County stops short of Three Rivers Park, where a corridor does exist to extend the trail east through Lake Station, and Portage. An abundance of natural attractions, land and water trails, and connections to many urban areas call for a broader anaylsis of a regionwide Calumet Greenway vision.


      In our region, most of the regional trail corridors are planned around existing abandoned rail right of way corridors and utility rights of way. Where these rights of way exist in or connect high priority conservation areas, managed native landscaping on the corridors would enhance their functional value as habitat connectors. In more urbanized areas, incorporation of green stormwater management practices into complete streets design guidelines can greatly increase the overall functionality of the urban public right of way.

      Another opportunity for functional integration exists along our waterways. The priority blueways identified in this plan provide an existing network of connections between urban and rural, natural and manmade environments. In many cases, they are nestled in linear strips bottom-land habitat due to floodplain development restrictions, or in steep forested ravines prone

      to erosion. Buffering the floodplain

      habitat and erodible streambank with naturalized recreational trails and parks in the riparian zone will simultaneously protect and improve water and fishery health, increase flood protection and climate resilience, provide public access to water trails, and deliver quality of life amenities for neighboring communities and developments.

      An example of this exists in the west branch of the Little Calumet River.

      For much of its length, the river flows between the levees of the Little Calumet River Flood Control and Recreation Project. By definition this is a flood control project. However, the project also includes a levee trail, and waterway access ramps. Future projects to restore hemi-marsh habitat within the floodway could provide enhanced opportunities for bird-watching and other passive recreation activities.




      I N T E G R A T I O N

      I N T E G R A T I O N


      Many of the planning documents generated by NIRPC are driven by transportation planning requirements and needs. The Greenways and Blueways 2020 Plan serves as the active (non-motorized) transportation plan

      for Northwest Indiana. As such, it will drive regional investment of federal transportation funding into non-motorized amenities and complete street projects.

      In addition, the federal agencies and regulations that drive us have recognized that integrating transportation planning with land use and environmental planning and regulations is critical to the success of regional transportation quality and successful transportation projects.

      Future implementation activities for this plan include developing policy guidelines that:

      • Integrate green infrastructure considerations into NIRPC complete streets policies

      • Incorporate habitat connectivity goals into road or trail projects with


waterway crossings, trail crossings, or drainage projects


We hope this document can help local governments wishing to incorporate conservation, recreation, and environmental quality into their own land use, open space, or park plans and regulations. The document may also be a resource to other agencies, partners, and stakeholders working and investing in the natural resources and recreation landscape of Northwest Indiana.

Vision 3: Vital Streets

In 2016, the City of Grand Rapids , MI adopted the Vital Streets Plan which proposed a union between Complete Streets & Green Infrastructure principles. The result is a vision that establishes a set of design standards for a number of street contexts in urbanized or residential areas. The goals of the plan are to ehnace transit options and facilitate the safe passage of pedestrians & bicyclists, while incorporating environmentally sustainable practices. The Vital Streets Plan ensures that addtions to the street network, including rehabilitation of exisitng corridors, will adhere to standards that improve the citizens quality of life. The Vital Streets Plan represents an outstanding integration of concepts as proposed in the G+B 2020 Plan.