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COMMENCEMENT

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Nature connects us to each other and with the world. Whether it be a forest,

prairie, beach or community park, we long to connect with the world around us and explore those pathways that lead us into connection and discovery.


The Greenways+Blueways 2020 Plan for Northwest Indiana (G+B 2020) represents

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influence our participation with nature.

This plan combines two major areas the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission has engaged in for decades on behalf of our member communities and the region: conservation planning and non-motorized transportation.

Planning cohesively for both can leverage the synergy of their close relationship.


Over the course of this document, this relationship will be broken down into core elements for the sake of establishing benchmarks, or baseline data. This in turn will help stakeholders in NW Indiana gauge the progress of proposals, and work together for continued success.


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The Northwest Indiana region offers many wonderful opportunities for us to enjoy our natural environment in a variety of ways. NIRPC proudly presents this plan as our hope to enhance access to existing attractions, and to expand their reach to all residents.


HISTORY

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) began as a transportation-focused agency in 1966, covering Lake and Porter

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Counties. In 1979 LaPorte County joined, and in the 1980s the mission of NIRPC expanded with the establishment of an Environmental Department.


PEDESTRIAN & BICYCLE TRANSPORTATION

NIRPC embarked on its first bikeways map in 1974, which highlighted a number of bike-friendly roads in Lake and Porter County. The first off-road multi-use trails planning effort took place in 1990 with the release of the Trail Opporutnity Plan. This document examined a number of abandoned rail corridors in the region,

seeking to take advantage of their potential as rails-to-trails projects.


Further refinement of the vision emerged with the 1994 Regional Bikeways Plan, which was produced on the heels of new federal monies dedicated to trail development, scenic preservation, stormwater and wildlife mortality mitigation, and preserving historic transportation assets. The plan features an extensive map of potential bicycle routes, both off-and-on road, and has served as the foundation of our network today.


About this time NIRPC established the Transportation Enhancement Committee (named after the federal TE funds for trails), which was charged with oversight of federal funds for trail development in NW Indiana. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) was responsible for selecting TE-funded trail projects statewide. Over time, NIRPC’s TE Committee established a supplemental funding application to INDOT’s, and

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also created the Priority Regional Trails Corridors Map, which has served as the primary tool for regional trail development (see page 61).


In 2005 the Regional Bikeways Plan was updated to reflect the growing interest in pedestrian-based movement and access. The 2005 Ped & Pedal Plan presented a comprehensive vision

for both bicyclists and pedestrians, and proposed a number of policies

supporting these modes. Some of these

policies were nationally-based, such as Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets.


Although much focus had been afforded to the development of non- motorized networks on land, there had been no formal planning for water routes utilized by canoes and kayaks. That changed with the release of the Greenways & Blueways Plan (G&B Plan) in 2007, funded by the Donnelly

Foundation. This document provided the

first comprehensive review of potential water trail routes in the region, which will be updated within the pages of this document.


To reflect the growing reach of planning responsibility, NIRPC’s TE Committee renamed itself the Ped, Pedal and Paddle Committee (3PC) in 2010. This group of public and private stakeholders meets regularly at NIRPC to review and update federal funding priorities, and educate regional & local leaders.


2010 also represented a banner year for non-motorized growth with the adoption of NIRPC’s Complete Streets

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Policy & Guidelines. This landmark policy placed the concept of Complete Streets squarely into the application processes at NIRPC. It established that all NIRPC- attributable funding projects would have to provide, to the greatest extent practicable, Complete Streets design elements in their transportation-based projects. Details about Complete Streets are discussed in Chapter IV.

Along with the Complete Streets policy adoption in 2010 was the update to the Ped & Pedal Plan. This document carried forward the goals from the 2005 plan and provided an update to the progress of trail development in the region.


Due to these efforts, the NIRPC region of Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties currently boasts over 160 miles of regional trail facilities, a staggering increase from only 13 miles that existed

in 1990. This represents a vivid statement of the effectiveness of NIRPC’s planning and collaboration in region.


CONSERVATION

The Northwest Indiana region presents plentiful examples of natural beauty. There exist many under- valued opportunities to expand on access to these areas, and create a unified network of natural systems for conservation and enjoyment alike.


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The location of the Indiana Dunes provides our region one of the most ecologically valuable territories in the world today. For well over a century, scientists and enthusiasts alike have marveled at the beauty and natural diversity present. However, the Dunes serve as only one piece of an intricate puzzle of sensitive environmental lands that deserve further study and respect.


NIRPC has also engaged in open space and conservation planning since its earliest days. In 1970 NIRPC completed an Environmental Resources Inventory for Lake and Porter Counties which included suggested open space standards and


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formed the baseline for further plans and studies throughout the decade. In 1972, NIRPC published “Open Space: A

Component of the Regional Plan”, which detailed a series of recommendations which should be considered with

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regard to preservation of open space and the development of recreational opportunity. In 1976 NIRPC continued to support park and recreation planning through “Parks and Recreation/ Implementation, Coordination, & Technical Services” and a “Framework for Parks and Recreation Acquisition

and Development”. NIRPC’s continued regional open space and conservation planning with the 1981 “Inventory of Natural Areas in Northwestern Indiana”.


In 1986 NIRPC instituted a subcommittee on the Environment. NIRPC’s chief avenue for reaching out to regional environmental and conservation stakeholders remains the monthly Environmental Management Policy Committee (EMPC). Issues of local, state, and national significance are routinely discussed at these meetings, with

prominent speakers brought in to share their insights.


NIRPC’s Environmental Department continued ecological work in the mid-1990s, with a focus on watershed management planning. Efforts

included the 1993 Trail Creek Watershed Management Plan, an early 1994 version of the Remedial Action Plan for Grand Calumet & Lake Michigan Areas of Concern, 1995 Recommendations for Managing the Wolf and George Lakes. More recently in this century, NIRPC completed a three-county regional Watershed Framework Plan in 2005, which was updated and expanded in 2011. Watershed management supports clean waterways essential for water trail enjoyment.


Conservation and open space planning efforts continued with the 2007 Greenways and Blueways Plan, and through Green Infrastructure

components in the 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan.


FOUNDATION OF THE PLAN

The core issue which brought about this plan’s unique focus is centered upon one word: greenways. As described in the 2007 Greenways & Blueways Plan:


or public recreational opportunities, improve and sustain hydrological functions, and enhance the

natural beauty and quality of life in neighborhoods and communities.


It is clear that greenways can be represented in a variety of ways. In previous plans, NIRPC had divided out greenway uses – either conservation- or water trail-focused (Greenways

& Blueways Plan), or non-motorized, land-use trails-focused (Ped, Pedal and Paddle Plans). Although the division of these greenway-based topics made sense, their interrelated relationships could not be adequately addressed.

This division of effort also makes it more challenging to take advantage of opportunities for synergy and resource leveraging.


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Combining planning elements does pose challenges. To aid with an understanding of this merger, NIRPC staff has created a spectrum of uses which provide clarity to the interconnectivity

of the three main focus areas of the G&B Plan: conservation, recreation and transportation. The spectrum of uses are shown in Figure C-1.


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As shown, the spectrum of uses are independent, but also interconnected. Where a conservation focus includes greenways, a recreation focus would involve trails which move people through them. This would be tied together with transportation, primarily walking, biking and paddling, which provides the means for one to experience the outdoors safely and enjoyably.

These interconnected relationships thus expand further into the depths of each focus area to describe and plan for their successful implementation. Examples would include wildlife habitat protections and connecting corridors, acquiring abandoned rail rights-of-way for new trails, and complete streets policies which provide accessible non-motorized transportation options to these areas.

The following chapters of the G+B 2020 Plan will delve into details on these core spectrum uses. The final chapter will bring these uses together for a unified vision moving forward to 2020 and beyond.


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Figure C-1 Specturm of Integrated Uses

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THE “GREENWAYS EIGHT”

PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS

Being a participant in a greenway proposal does not mean opening up private land for public use. Many acres of conserved land are held

privately, and provide valuable wildlife habitat, vegetative and water quality benefits. There are many avenues

for a landowner to explore to help their land be part of a high-quality ecosystem.

PRIVATE PROPERTY OWNERS

Being a participant in a greenway proposal does not mean opening up private land for public use. Many acres of conserved land are held

privately, and provide valuable wildlife habitat, vegetative and water quality benefits. There are many avenues

for a landowner to explore to help their land be part of a high-quality ecosystem.

LOCAL & COUNTY GOVERNMENTS

These are the gatekeepers for all land development decisions, and the frontline entities with which the public engages. These entities craft plans

and ordinances, hold regular meetings and elicit public feedback. Also, and quite importantly, they would maintain publically-owned facilities

LOCAL & COUNTY GOVERNMENTS

These are the gatekeepers for all land development decisions, and the frontline entities with which the public engages. These entities craft plans

and ordinances, hold regular meetings and elicit public feedback. Also, and quite importantly, they would maintain publically-owned facilities

The 2007 Greenways & Blueways Plan outlined key stakeholder types which were refered to as the “Greenways Eight”. Combined, nearly every resident of the Northwest Indiana region falls into either one or several of these descriptions. Taken together, the Greenways Eight are all critical to creating interconnected open space opportunities, either new or restored.

The vast majority of land is held in private hands, and thus these stakeholders must be engaged in the process.


The following pages outline the Greenways Eight. Throughout this document, all eight will be mentioned frequently. Their involvement is nothing short of vital for the successful implementation of greenways-related projects in Northwest Indiana.


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CORPORATE PROPERTY OWNERS

Large tracks of land, many undisturbed and ecologically valuable, exist as corporate landholdings. Some of these are formerly used properties, or “Brownfields,” that have great

potential with remediation to become valuable components of a greenway. Stewardship practices by corporations have been important and should be built upon.

CORPORATE PROPERTY OWNERS

Large tracks of land, many undisturbed and ecologically valuable, exist as corporate landholdings. Some of these are formerly used properties, or “Brownfields,” that have great

potential with remediation to become valuable components of a greenway. Stewardship practices by corporations have been important and should be built upon.

LAND TRUSTS/ADVOCACY GROUPS

Many non-profit organizations exist in Northwest Indiana to advance conservation practices, provide stewardship of open spaces and promote transportation choices. These groups are key to building partnerships across both public and private sectors that advance our greenways and blueways networks.

LAND TRUSTS/ADVOCACY GROUPS

Many non-profit organizations exist in Northwest Indiana to advance conservation practices, provide stewardship of open spaces and promote transportation choices. These groups are key to building partnerships across both public and private sectors that advance our greenways and blueways networks.

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DEVELOPERS

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Private land developers hold great potential in championing progressive conservation development practices and transportation designs. Working with this group closely can provide opportunities to expand access to our greenways for all residents to enjoy.

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LINEAR CORRIDOR OWNERS

Long stretches of undeveloped land are primed for greenway development. The owners of these

corridors offer unmatched possibilities for trails and habitat connectivity. The land use can involve utilities, railroads or water ways, with each offering opportunities to route trail facilities within them. Many corridor owners have already exhibited excellent civic- mindedness in these areas (NIPSCO), and there exists similar partnerships with additional owners.

LINEAR CORRIDOR OWNERS

Long stretches of undeveloped land are primed for greenway development. The owners of these

corridors offer unmatched possibilities for trails and habitat connectivity. The land use can involve utilities, railroads or water ways, with each offering opportunities to route trail facilities within them. Many corridor owners have already exhibited excellent civic- mindedness in these areas (NIPSCO), and there exists similar partnerships with additional owners.

FEDERAL, STATE & REGIONAL ENTITIES

Providing assistance both educationally and financially, government entities at the national, state and regional level remain valuable partners in greenway development. They also help

build partnerships and bring key stakeholders together to discuss issues and plan projects.

FEDERAL, STATE & REGIONAL ENTITIES

Providing assistance both educationally and financially, government entities at the national, state and regional level remain valuable partners in greenway development. They also help

build partnerships and bring key stakeholders together to discuss issues and plan projects.

INSTITUTIONS OF EDUCATION

Region schools, at every level on the education ladder, have been major contributors towards education and research assistance for a variety of conservation initiatives. They can also be significant public land owners.

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Bringing students into the mix to establish and maintain greenways will promote an awareness and environmental ethic at an early age.