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G R E E N W AY S -1- BL UE WAY S

NORTHWEST INDIANA REGIONAL PLAN

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“GREENWAYS ARE THE PATHS WHERE THE NATURAL AND HUMAN LANDSCAPES COINCIDE.”

- JOHN CLARK, SUPREME COURT JUSTICE

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PREPARED BY

Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission


ADOPTED

March 15, 2018


CONTRIBUTING STAFF

Mitch Barloga, AICP

Active Transportation Planner Project Manager


Kathy Luther

Director of Environmental Programs Project Manager


Joe Exl

Senior Water Resource Planner


Sarah Geinosky

GIS Coordinator


Stephen Sostaric

Public Involvement & Communications Coordinator


James Winters

Transit Planner

CHAIRMAN

Geoff Benson Beverly Shores Council

VICE-CHAIR

Diane Noll Wanatah Clerk- Treasurer

SECRETARY

Karen Freeman- Wilson

Mayor of Gary

TREASURER

George Topoll Union Township Trustee

EXECUTIVE BOARD

Anthony Copeland Mayor of East Chicago

Justin Kiel

LaCrosse Council

Mark Krentz

Mayor of LaPorte


Thomas M. McDermott, Jr. Mayor of Hammond

Greg Stinson

Porter Councilman

Ed Soliday

State Representative & Governor Appointee

James G. Ton

Chesterton Council

LAKE COUNTY

Robert Carnahan

Cedar Lake Council

Andrew Kyres

Crown Point Council

Mary Tanis

Dyer Council

Rick Ryfa

Griffith Council


Michael Griffin Highland Clerk- Treasurer

Brian Snedecor

Mayor of Hobart


Kyle W. Allen, Sr. Lake County Commission

Christine Cid

Lake County Council


Bill Emerson, Jr. Lake County Surveyor


Christopher Anderson Mayor of Lake Station

Will Farrellbegg

Lowell Council

Richard Hardaway

Merrillville Council


Dave Shafer Munster Clerk- Treasurer

Lori Collmar New Chicago Council

Christian Jorgensen

St. John Council

Tom Schmitt

Schererville Council

Jack Jeralds II

Schneider Council

Joseph Stahura

Mayor of Whiting

David Anderson

Winfield Council


LAPORTE COUNTY

Mark Ritter

Kingsbury Council


Richard Mrozinski LaPorte County Commission


Cary Kirkham LaPorte County Council


Anthony Hendircks LaPorte County Surveyor

Nick Meyer

Long Beach Council


Jean Poulard Michiana Shores Council


Tim Bietry Michigan City Council

John Bayler

Trail Creek Council

Thomas Fath

Westville Council

PORTER COUNTY

Jane Jordan

Burns Harbor Clerk- Treasurer


Jeannette Bapst Dunes Acres Clerk- Treasurer

Don Ensign

Hebron Council

Tim Jones

Kouts Council


Carolyn Saxton Ogden Dunes Council

James Snyder

Mayor of Portage


Jim Biggs Porter County Commission


Jeff Larson Porter County Council


Kevin Breitzke Porter County Surveyor


Edward Morales Porter Township Trustee

Matt Murphy

Valparasio Council


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Ty Warner, AICP

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COMMENCEMENT

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I - CONSERVATION II - RECREATION

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III - TRANSPORTATION IV - INTEGRATION

V - IMPLEMENTATION

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COMMENCEMENT

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M M E N C E M E N T

M M E N C E M E N T

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 Plan)

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factors that influence our participation with nature. This plan combines two major areas the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) 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 began as a transportation-focused agency in 1966, covering Lake and Porter Counties.

In 1979 LaPorte County joined, and in the 1980’s the mission of NIRPC

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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 Opportunity 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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M M E N C E M E N T

M M E N C E M E N T

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.



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

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.


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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 the 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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M M E N C E M E N T

M M E N C E M E N T

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

regard to preservation of open space and the development of recreational opportunity. In 1976 NIRPC continued

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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- 1990’s, 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.


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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:


mostly managed grasses or low-lying

vegetation planted in developed areas for recreation, erosion control or aesthetic purposes. These could include parks, large expanses of lawn, or cemeteries.


Natural Land Cover Types (Habitat)



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RECREATION

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R E C R E A T I O N

R E C R E A T I O N

The role of recreational activities

within greenways corridors is significant. Indeed, planning for the enjoyment of our natural areas is a major component at nearly every governmental level,

as well as at private land-trusts. Either through parks, conservation areas, or linear trail facilities, outlets for recreation represent the foundation of a region’s quality of life.


As a disclaimer, the matter of recreational access is vast, and this plan will not attempt to cover all aspects.

Thus there will be no focus herein on active recreation (soccer, baseball, etc.) or park programs. Of prime focus are those recreation activities that contribute to and benefit from the expansion of

our greenways network: land and water

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trails.


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RAIL-TRAILS ARE A PERFECT MEANS OF TELLING COMMUNITY STORIES....THEIR LONG AND COLORFUL HISTORY MAKE PERFECT GREENWAYS. THEY COMBINE THAT HISTORY WITH A RESPECT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, AND RECREATION, AND ALLOW US TO LIVE LIFE ON A HUMAN SCALE MAINTAINING CONTACT WITH EACH OTHER AND WITH NATURE.

–DAVID BURWELL, PRESIDENT, RAILS-TO- TRAILS CONSERVANCY, 1998


LAND TRAILS

A source of immense regional pride remains our ever-expanding off-road trail network. From meager beginnings in the early 1990’s with only 13 miles of known trail, the Northwest Indiana region has exploded with nearly 160 miles of interregional trails connecting many communities. This truly is a planning success story on a significant scale.


A number of factors have contributed to the success of trail-building in NW Indiana, but the seeds were laid many years ago. Due to the proximity of both Chicago and Lake Michigan, railroads literally crisscrossed Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties in the late 1800’s. By the turn of the 20th Century, roughly 1000 miles of track were in operation – a staggering amount relative to the size of the region.


However, the number of railroad miles in active use decreased with our declining manufacturing base. By the early 1990’s, about 700 miles of active line were left.

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This left about 300 miles for potential trail conversion. Thanks to new federal financing tools created at that time, a

golden age of trail development began,

and has yet to slow down.


Other factors contributed as well, including utility companies allowing trails within their corridors for no fee, and simply a general appreciation of their quality of life benefits. This latter factor has led many communities to invest in even more new miles of trail without federal assistance.


BENEFITS

Trails offer a tremendous number of benefits – both individually and collectively. These include:



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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 enhance transit options and facilitate the safe passage of pedestrians & bicyclists, while incorporating environmentally sustainable practices. The Vital Streets Plan ensures that additions to the street network, including rehabilitation of existing 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.

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IMPLEMENTATION

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I M P L E M E N T A T I O N

I M P L E M E N T A T I O N

GOALS, OBJECTIVES & POLICIES

The following represents a summary of the goals, objectives, policies and

activities that have been carried forward from previous plans (2005 and 2010 Ped & Pedal Plans), and feedback from numerous regional stakeholders during listening sessions and NIRPC meetings.

The theme of these goals relate to the topics as covered in the Conservation, Recreation and Transportation chapters of the G+B 2020 Plan.

The goals are broken down into elements which help facilitate implementation and track their progress. These elements include:


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CONSERVATION

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GOAL C1: Encourage and promote the preservation of natural or naturalized conservation buffers and conservation corridors protecting and linking Northwest Indiana high quality priority conservation areas across the landscape


Objective C-1.1: Identify and Map Natural Ecological Communities currently remaining outside of conservation management


Policy/Activity


Local

Government


Private Property


Land Trusts/ Advocates

Linear Corridor Owners


Developers

Corporate Property Owners

Federal, State & Regional

Institutions of Education

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Field check and inventory natural communities identified through GIS Analysis

Seek funding for ecological inventories

Seek funding for ecological inventories & allow ecological inventory on private lands

Seek funding for ecological inventories

Allow ecological inventory and share habitat manage- ment infor- mation

Allow ecological inventory on private lands

Seek funding for ecological inventories

Seek fund- ing for ecological inventories and de- velop data sharing mecha- nisms

Seek fund- ing for ecological inventories & allow ecological inventory on private lands

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Educate Public and Decision Makers about the public and economic value of undeveloped natural areas