Trails in Center Grove? We Can Do It!

When I moved to Center Grove six years ago, my daughter was still in preschool. She went to Prince of Peace on Smokey Row Road at SR 135. Each morning I buckled her in her car seat and headed south on Mullinix Road. And each morning, we would see a jaunty elderly man walking north, wearing a bright yellow jacket.

As soon as he caught sight of us cresting the hill, he routinely crossed to the other side to get out of our way, tipping his hat to our eager good morning waves. I thought good for him. He’ll live forever! It was all very quaint, but I wondered why he was walking on the road. Aren’t there safer places for him to work on his health? Are there no trails nearby? Once I started venturing on our country roads, I quickly learned, no.

Center Grove needs trails. It’s not a luxury. It’s a must. It’s really a matter of life and death. We need stay active, so we can live longer – not get mowed down in the middle of Morgantown Road. We can even argue we need to beat energy costs. We need more ways to meet and build community. We need safe ways for kids to walk to school. But, maybe first, we need to change our attitudes and behaviors.

You would have thought it was child abuse last spring when I walked my third grader to school, less than one mile away. My vehicle was in the shop. I didn’t want a rental for just a couple of days. No fewer than four well-meaning neighbors offered to take us and wagged their heads when I said no. My kid wailed about it until I relented that we could ride our bikes in our community and then park them. We walked the rest of the way in the grass, far off the too narrow road. Her shoes, socks and pant legs were soaked by the time we got to school. And the home owner where we parked our bikes behind the community entrance sign called the police because she thought the abandoned kid’s bike there was a sign of a child abduction! Really?

Two new trails are coming to Center Grove! One begins in Brentridge Estates and heads west to Morgantown Road then south to Center Grove Elementary School. The other is located along Stones Crossing Road between the School Administration Building and the entrance to Forest Hills subdivision. See map here.

In 2007 Center Grove Trails, Inc. incorporated as a nonprofit. Its mission, “A future in which White River Township has a well-used, network of multi-use trails and pathways accessible to all to safely walk, jog or bike to many destinations, including other trail systems, in support of a flourishing, walkable community.” Great, but I would add, “and not be killed.”

Here’s why – to the lovely runners, walkers, bikers and the occasional mother with a stroller, I plead with you to please take note. I run errands all day long. I take my kid to school and pick her up. I run to SR 135 all the time. I am a soccer mom. I take care of my mother. I go to church. I am always driving. I’m on Mullinix, Olive Branch, Stones Crossing, Smokey Row, SR 144, Whiteland Road, and Morgantown Road. Almost every day. All of them. Consider all the hills and curves on these narrow roads that keep anyone from either seeing a bicyclist or making it possible to go around safely, especially in the double yellow lines. And know that when driving west with the sun at just the right angle and bug guts on my windshield from driving to mom’s in the country, I can’t see you! To the guy who was out on Morgantown Road Saturday night after my kid was done cheering for Bantam football around 9 p.m. – thank you for having a flashing red light on the back of your bike, but it took me way too long to figure out what it was. That was all I could see.

Anita Knowles leads Center Grove Trails. She’s been working on this for years. She’s done a yeomen’s job. I met her when I headed up the Johnson County Community Foundation in Franklin. I lived in Franklin at the time and was spoiled with the fantastic trail system there. What a gem for the Franklin community. Why can’t we do that here?

Anita Knowles leads the non-profit Center Grove Trails organization.

Knowles says, “It is so much more complicated than you think.” Well, I do imagine that. But, we are an educated, fairly affluent, roll up your sleeves kind of community. With twice as many people as Franklin. We can’t do it? Add to it that our roads are narrower with more hills. Listen, I’m at that age where in the past few years I’ve been touched with the death of a parent, another with a serious ailment, divorce, loss of a job, crazy in-laws, taking care of a young child, illness, medicines that read “May Cause Drowsiness. Use Care When Operating A Car Or Dangerous Machinery,” and barely can read that on the bottle because I’m old enough to wear glasses but still vain enough not to. As my angel of a State Farm agent could tell you, I’ve had a few fender benders in the last few years. (Sorry to my neighbor’s red Taurus, and the red mailbox on north Mullinix. You’d think I could see red. Apparently, not.)

Oh, and while we all know it’s illegal to text and drive, no one said anything about facebook or my phone’s navigation app, and really it only takes about ten seconds for me to call Mom after opening the security pattern, clicking on favorites, scrolling down and clicking twice on her name. I also put makeup on and paint my nails – a master at French tips.

Here’s the crazy thing, I’m not the only one out there.

I know I’ve more than made my point. But, I can’t stress enough that this truly is a matter of life and death. Still, building trails is at the bottom of the list for county government – way behind roads, police, fire, etc. “It is practically impossible without being incorporated. Without a town or city, it is challenging,” says Knowles. However, there has been significant work done by this organization. Center Grove Trails, working diligently with the Johnson County government, has received three grants that total $659,000. Finally, in 2013, two trails will be built!

The trail in Brentridge Estates includes a pedestrian bridge, sidewalks, and heads west along the north edge of the soccer fields to Morgantown Road, south to Center Grove Elementary School. Total length is to be 2700 feet. The other trail is located along Stones Crossing Road between the School Administration Building and Forest Hills, a 120’ X 6’ pedestrian bridge over Honey Creek along with connected sidewalks. A map is available on the atCenterGrove website. With both trails completed there will be a continuous loop on sidewalks, pedestrian bridges, and 10’ wide trails. I challenged Knowles about Brentridge and Forest Hills. These aren’t exactly underserved areas. Why can’t they pay for at least some of it? But the grants were through a Safe Routes to School program. These trails will improve safety for our children and anyone wanting to go to and from our schools safely.

Innovative art work add interest and character to trails. They also have the potential to offer a creative outlet for local artists.

It’s a start. It’s needed. Other communities have incredible trail systems and incredible amenities that come with them. More than 1 million people use the Monon Trail in Indianapolis alone each year – more than those who go to the Colts, Pacers and Indians combined each year. Besides helping to beat the fitness deficit for the 30% of Hoosiers who are obese, many trails enhance community culture by including public art, and have an economic impact by connecting businesses along the trails. Who wouldn’t want to take a morning stroll to Strange Brew or bike the whole family to Ella’s?!

At this point, Knowles has gotten the two trails paid for 100%. Yes, the monies are from federal tax dollars. But, if Center Grove didn’t get it, some other community would. And they have. This is significant for us, because government grants most often require a 20% match. We didn’t have to do that for these trails. But we truly need more. More to be connected to the other trails. More to allow us to have the amenities other communities have. More to provide a safe place for our children, teens, elderly and we middle agers to get fit. Our churches have been so great to build fitness and community centers for our area. Wouldn’t it be even better if we had trails leading to their front doors too? Ok, just a thought. I’ll move on.

Truly, Knowles has been working on this for a long time. Help is needed. I too believe it would be easier if we were incorporated like Franklin or Greenwood, but the need is now. Call Knowles. Yell at her even if you want to, but not unless you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and dig in your pocket a little. As my daughter says, “Everything costs.” Well, yes. But, together, we can do it.

Contact Anita Knowles at 317-885-1290, or email her at Check out the Center Grove Trails, Inc. website at Educate yourself. Get involved.

By the way – for all except the jaunty elderly man with the bright yellow jacket, who’s still walking, still tipping his hat, still living because he’s still crossing the road to get out of my way – I drive a huge gold Land Rover, constructed of 6063 lbs of steel and Bondo. Please be on the lookout for me. Well, not right now. I’m driving Mom’s Buick while mine’s in the body shop. But later this week….look out! cg

Sonya HallettSonya Hallett, adjunct faculty with The Fund Raising School, is a writer/editor and speaker on topics that include philanthropy, giving circles, planned giving, proposal writing, voluntarism and community involvement for many area organizations.Sonya served the Johnson County Community Foundation (JCCF) on its board of directors for ten years before becoming its president/CEO.

Comments 4

  1. Joseph H. says:

    I'm glad I wasn't the only person perplexed by Center Grove's lack of trails and pedestrian bridges. I grew up in Plainfield where the trails connect all of the town parks, schools, and recreational facilities.

  2. Stacey says:

    This is an ok start, but it seems very centralized to a very small neighborhood. Nice for those who live in that neighborhood but I don't see how most of Center Grove benefit from the trails.

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