Town council receives update on bicycle/walking trail plan


BROWNSTOWN — The Brownstown Town Council recently received a progress report on the development of a plan to help the town work toward an active living culture.

The effort will focus on creating safe biking and walking experiences for town residents and the development of marketing and promotion, infrastructure (events, activities, pathways, signages and more) and ensuring public involvement in the planning process for all.

Earlier this year, the Indiana State Department of Health awarded the town $20,000 to produce a walking and biking improvement plan. Jane Ellery with E2praxis in Ewing is in the process of developing that plan.

She told town council members during their July 1 meeting at town hall that she had recently met and gathered information about walking/biking trails from members of the Brownstown Exchange Club and cross country coaches with Brownstown Central High School.

The first meeting of plan advisory group meeting also recently was held, she said. The work of that meeting was finished at 7:30 p.m. that day, but the last people didn’t leave until after 9 p.m.

“So, it was great conversation afterwards,” Ellery said.

In the future, the advisory group plans to create interaction opportunities with the public at major events such as the Jackson County Fair and the Brownstown Watermelon Festival; hold a town hall-style meeting; meet with high school cross country runners to get a youth prospective; and identify existing social media platforms used by town residents to disseminate and collect information from those not able to physically attend community events.

As part of the information gathering process, specific community social organizations and age groups have or will be involved to ensure diverse representation and an active voice for town residents. Once the information gathering process is complete, the plan will be put together and submitted to the state by the end of September. That’s when the pursuit of funding opportunities to complete projects related to the plan can start.

Ellery also presented information about a Geographic Information System (GIS) inventory mapping and analysis of transportation in Brownstown. That analysis shows approximately 25% of the streets in Brownstown/Ewing have sidewalks with an average quality score of 2.4 (usable but in need of some updating/reconditioning); the average width of those sidewalks is about 4 feet; and about 75% of those sidewalks are handicapped accessible. It also shows an existing sidewalk infrastructure forms a corridor connecting Brownstown and Ewing and a pathway also currently exists between the Jackson County Fairgrounds to Ewing.

Ellery said she and her husband, Peter Ellery, are exploring other grant opportunities that could benefit the community including one that would make Brownstown Ewing Main Street a Community Development Corporation and a second that would be used to develop a plan related to what aging looks like in Brownstown.

“We just want to let you know that those are in the works too,” she said.

Community Development Corporations are nonprofits created to support and revitalize communities. They help develop comprehensive plans, façade grants, blight removal plans, brand strategy, destination planning, alternative funding opportunities.

The program is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Development Rural Initiatives and the grant to be sought would be $500,000 for three years with a $500,000 match potentially leveraging Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI 2.0) funds and county funding for renovation projects at the Jackson County Fairgrounds.

The second grant would be for $50,000 with a $50,000 local match possibly from Healthy Jackson County, Jane Ellery said. It would come through the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Engagement’s Building Socially Connected Communities. Areas to be considered include relocation and upgrading of senior center programming, activation of transportation for older populations, food security and quality, intergenerational opportunities, support for accessing senior benefits, active living after 50 and aging in place potential.

That grant requires an applicant and there is no one in place for that right now, but it could wind up being the town or Brownstown Ewing Main Street, Jane Ellery said.

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