Radius Indiana is a regional, nonprofit economic development organization in southern Indiana, and has worked for several years with a number of regional partners on the acquisition and development of more than 60 miles of CSX rail corridor into a unique regional gem that will provide a boost to public health, tourism, safety, and economic development for numerous communities across several counties.
The field of economic development has evolved in recent years to include a number of activities and initiatives that add not only new jobs and new investments but also new opportunities for communities to build up their quality of place and appeal to new residents as well as new businesses. Radius’s support for the development of the Monon South provides a regional basis for acquiring the corridor so that we can work with the community leaders along the way to develop their vision of the trail.
Southern Indiana Trailways, a dedicated, private non-profit organization established to implement and manage the project, will be given the opportunity to take over the leadership of the Monon South and ensure the trail’s development, management, and ongoing maintenance and activation. Other trails throughout Indiana also have similar advisory structures, such as the Cardinal Greenway, composed of board members that work and reside along the trail corridor. Radius will work with Southern Indiana Trailways and will provide support to the organization as it becomes established.
The four counties along the Radius portion of the Monon South currently have 2,167 people employed in the Hospitality and Tourism industry as of the second quarter of 2022. Employment in the field is 18 percent higher than the national average, and the development of the Monon South will provide more opportunities for new businesses to grow in the communities along the corridor. Business establishments have grown in number in the field over the past several years, even maintaining stability despite the pandemic’s impact.
“Communities like Borden and Pekin and Campbellsburg and Mitchell all have the chance to turn the Monon into a business growth engine because tourists will be walking and biking through the middle of those towns in the coming years,” commented Radius CEO Jeff Quyle. “And the amenities that grow to serve the tourists will also be there to improve services for the current and future residents as well.”
Radius recognizes that the quality of place and the assets that embellish our region’s quality of place are important to economic vitality for the communities of southern Indiana. Through the Discover Southern Indiana regional tourism initiative Radius is promoting its region’s assets to the Midwestern market, inviting tourists to spend their vacation time in our beautiful scenery.
Through the Choose Southern Indiana population attraction initiative, Radius hears many people describe the importance of charming rural communities that have attractions like long-distance trails. And through the Spark-Downtown initiative Radius works to help rural communities build and retain new retail businesses which can serve and benefit from the tourists who will enjoy the Monon South Trail as it is constructed.
Southern Indiana Trailways will work with local leaders to identify segments of the trail to prioritize for development, as well as working with them to learn what practical improvements can be made along the corridor most quickly to improve the local community through steps such as re-grading local road crossings.
In addition to the $25+ million in funding provided by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Indiana Uplands region has pledged to provide $1 million in READI funding, and Radius has already spent and committed over $650,000 of its own funds for the project to date. A 2021 study estimated that the development of the trail in Lawrence, Orange, Washington, and a portion of Clark County would cost between $23,800,000 and $43,900,000. Construction using the current pledged funds will take place in 2024 to 2026, and further development will rely on the acquisition of additional financial resources.
In 2021, Radius worked with community leaders from along the corridor to create a sketchbook of ideas about how the trail could be developed in numerous communities. The elements of the sketchbook can be seen at Southern Indiana Trailways.
“We’re extremely grateful to the Department of Natural Resources for the amount of work and commitment they’ve invested in this project over the past few years. They and New Albany and the Cook Group have all shown that there is nothing more successful than collaboration and teamwork,” Quyle mentioned. “Everyone worked together and we all had our eye on helping reach a collective goal.”