In early 1990s the CSX train abandoned its rail line around Muncie. Rather than let the line lie unused, people made the rail line into a bike trail. By 1998 the first asphalt trail of the Cardinal Greenways was established.
As funds permitted, the trails were extended. By 2012, the paved trails stretched for 62 miles through Grant, Delaware, Henry, Randolph, and Wayne counties.
The trails follow the White River and Highway 35, cutting through farm country, wooded areas, and the city of Muncie. In Marion the trails weave through a tunnel.
The trails are popular with bicyclists, runners, walkers, rollerbladers, cross country skiers and college students. It is a continuous paved trail for 51 miles with the only gap being at Jonesboro.
Did I mention that the entire trail system can be used for free?
Cardinal Greenway trails are open year-round from dawn to dusk. From April through October portable toilets are available at trail heads. The trails are ADA compliant so wheelchairs are welcome. Keep in mind there is a slight grade in areas because of the former rail line.
Parking is easy, according to Angie Pool, Chief Executive Officer of Cardinal Greenways. She and a crew of volunteers created the Cardinal Greenways trails. “We have 19 trail heads with parking," she said.
Her office is located in a restored train station depot along the trail. The depot is staffed Monday-Friday from 8am-4pm. Labor Day weekend will be the last weekend when the depot will be open—Saturday and Sunday 10am-3pm. Brochures for Cardinal Greenways containing maps of the trails are available inside.
I know it is too early to be thinking of the white stuff that frequents Indiana during winter, but this is something to keep in mind -- although the trails are open year-round, Pool and her crew of volunteers don't plow the trails in winter. Hopefully heavy snow and ice will not be a problem this year!
If you need help along the way, flag a Cardinal Greenways volunteer. They ride the trails most days wearing bright green shirts and serving as ‘trail rangers’. “They are our eyes and ears,” said Pool.
Pool guesses approximately 250,000 people use the trails annually. “It is for all ages so we see a lot of people of all ages out here,” she said.
Now that the temps are more moderate, pick a day to claim your spot on the greenway. Then run, bike, rollerblade -- maybe even ski!-- your way through eastern Indiana!
For more information about Cardinal Greenways call their office at 765.287.0399.