Paying for a Trail That Already Exists: The Fishers Nickel Plate Trail

The Fishers City Council approved an increase to property taxes to pay for the first phase of the new Nickel Plate Trail that has been proposed to replace the Nickel Plate rail. This tax increase is to help fund the $7 to $9 million cost for the first of three phases of the trail.

What is worth noting is that the tax increase is roughly double the initial cost estimate for the total trail, even though it is only for the first phase. At the time of this writing the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) site for the Nickel Plate Trail still shows an estimated cost of roughly 4.4 million for the Fishers section.

Figure: Trails and Tracks

The first phase of the Nickel Plate Trial will run from 106th Street to 126th. What hasn’t been stated clearly is that there are already trails that run from just north of 106th all the way to 131st Street. These trails are within two blocks of either side of the tracks where the new Nickel Plate trail is expected to be. In fact, parts of these trails run next to the tracks. This raises the question, that if existing trails already run from 106th near the tracks to 131st, then why will seven to nine million be spent building another trail?

The Existing Trails

Just north of 106th Street at the rail road tracks, you can find the Cheeney Creek Loop trail that runs through Cheeney Creek Natural Area. Not only does this park include walking and biking tails, but it also has a small lake (pond), lots of trees and a picnic area. The park and trails go from 106th Street to just north of 116th Street.

Figure: Cheeney Creek Area

North of the Cheeney Creek loop, the path crosses the road and winds through trees, around a pond, and through a neighborhood. In this area the trail winds through Big Wheel Park. This park on the path includes playground equipment, a hilly sidewalk for kids to have fun, more picnic tables, and other amenities. Next to the park are both a creek and a pond.

Figure: Big Wheel Park

The trail continues from Big Wheel Pond  across 116th Street and through the downtown area. You’ve likely noticed the cross walk just east of the tracks on 116th. Ironically, while the city expects to spend $2 to $5 million to build an underpass for a new trail where the tracks are located, there have been no comments about the crosswalk that is less than a stone throw away. What has been noted (but I’ve not confirmed), is that there are drainage issues in that area which could result in extra costs to try to build a trail that goes under the road.

If you continue on the path through the downtown area, you’ll find that forks around the library and Lantern Road. One part of the fork is a path that winds across Lantern Road and the railroad tracks and goes through the Tech center area. The path then follows (parallels) the railroad tracks going up towards and then past the Launch Fishers facility. You can see parts of this form in the next figure. The area near Launch Fishers includes a few more picnic tables just off the path.

Figure: Trial in the Fishers Tech Park area.

The other fork going from downtown goes from the library area north along Lantern Road. This is a newly updated trail  that follows Lantern Road all the way to 131st Street, where it turns West to Allisonville. At Allisonville, the path then turns North and goes to the entrance of Conner Prairie. Why the city build a path from downtown to a facility that charges admission is unclear, but the path has been built. Currently the construction on Allisonville at 131st Street disconnects the part of the trail that is in front of Conner Prairie. That part of the path has been built and torn up (the grass and landscaping) several times in the last 12 to 18 months as road work is being done. Hopefully it isn’t tax dollars paying for the repetitive task.

Figure: Trail from Lantern Road to Conner Prairie

Building New Trails

The existing trails from Cheeney Creek to 131st are within a block or two of the railroad tracks. These trails are all relatively new and paid for with previous tax dollars. As such, turning the rails into a trail between 106th and 126th as a first phase seems not only redundant with what is already there, but possibly unnecessary. The fact that the city is raising taxes to build a trail nearly on top of existing trails, should cause many citizens of Fishers to raise there voices in concern with how their tax dollars are being spent.

Figure: Trails from 106th to 126th

If the City wants to add trails, then, it would make more sense to build the trail from 96th to 106th connecting to Cheeney Creek’s trails and then build a connection from the 131st and Lantern trail to the tracks and go North. This would add new trail areas.

Of course, when a trail already exists in the same area, then there is the question of how much is this new trail worth. While the city posted $4.4 million as a base cost in the Nickel Plate Trail FAQs, I’m not alone in estimating a cost that is likely to go over $30,000 ,000. That, however, is a topic for another article.

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The Future of the White River

For those of you that live in Hamilton or Marion Counties in Indiana, you might be interested in the activity that is happening regarding the White River. There is a lot of noise about the Nickel Plate Trail project in Hamilton County, but the real story might be around the White River for those truly interested in getting outdoors.

There is a committee that has been working on a project that spans the 58 miles of the White River through Hamilton and Marion counties. On November 5th, they had their second public meeting regarding the White River Vision Plan.

The White River Vision Plan was kicked off earlier in 2018 and is working to build a plan vision for what could be done with the White River. The City of Hamilton County is working with Hamilton County to build a plan for using the river. This includes considerations for trails, water usage, access points, and much more. They are looking to promote:

  • Access to the river
  • Water quality of the river and the ecological/environmental value of the area.
  • Connections to things around the rivers such as biking trails, hiking, neighborhoods, arts, entertainment, and attractions.
  • Educational water experiences including history, nature, and more.
  • Get people outside

This WRVP is working to create a plan that will offer recommendations for what should be done with the river and the area around it. Once the plan is completed over the next year, the WRVP group will continue to stay involve helping support projects, support infrastructure, and provide recommendations for funding to help keep the plan moving forward. Funding for the plan would come from both private and public sources; however, the amount and details of the funding should happen after a plan is created. The current timeline is shown below. The second public meeting just happened.

In the second public meeting, there were a couple dozen attendees. Most were from the Northern part of Hamilton County and were there to express concern regarding any plans that might impede on their land that borders the river. While the River is state property up, the land next to the river is only public up to the flood lines. This means that in most areas along the river, the land is private property. This is something the WRVP group is aware of and working to help maintain.

Parks along the River

My daughters and I have canoed down the White River many times. While the WRVP goes as far north as 246th Street, we’ve only canoed from around 211th Street down to 116th Street. In addition to that, within Hamilton County, we’ve been to the parks within that areas as well as those down to 96th Street.

Potters Bridge Park

In Noblesville, Potters Bridge Park is a location we visit regularly throughout the entire year. This small park has a covered bridge that goes over the White River. It also has a canoe launching area. Most importantly, it has a trial with distant markers that go from the bridge area down to Forrest Park in Noblesville. It is great for walking, running, or biking. This is a place to fish as well as a starting point for tubers that use the river.

Forrest Park

Forrest Park is on the other side of a road next to the river. This part is full of activities, but related to the river, there is a public boat launch at the south side of the park off of Cicero Road. This is an area my girls and I have used as a launching point for canoeing. We go from this location down to 116th Street over the course of a few hours.

Downtown Noblesville

If you’ve not been to downtown Noblesville near the White River, you’ve missed a nice area to get out and walk. Noblesville has created walkways (that can also be used with bikes) along the White River. This includes a bridge that goes over the river to Forrest Park.

Conner Prairie

Conner Prairie is not public access, but the river goes along and through its property. Conner Prairie has been working to do more with the river.

River Road Park

River Road Park is on the Carmel side of the river. In addition to having walking and biking paths, that are near the river, there is access to get to the river for fishing and more. The bike paths go north of this park up to around River Road and the areas that are next to the river.

River Heritage Park

This is a smaller park with a fun playground and some rolling mounds that are fun to run on. This park is just north of 116th Street on River Road (Carmel side of river). While this is near the river, my girls and I have not managed to get to the river from this park.

116th Street

On the Northeast side of 116th Street and the White River is public access to the White River. This is an area where boats, kayaks, and canoes can be launched. This launch area is in a flood zone, so other than being able to access the river, there isn’t much here.

Riverside School

Riverside School has a park behind ti that is sued for sports and school activities. This area also has trails that go down along the White River that are used.

Hazel Landing Park

The Hazel Landing Park is one of the more secret parks along the White River. This park is accessible on the Carmel side at 106th Street off of Hazel Dell Parkway. The access road at Hazel Dell is gravel and down a small dip. Once you go back towards the river on the gravel road, you hit a nice paved area with a parking lot. This park has great access to the river for fishing. It is marked as a canoe launch, although it won’t be as easy as 116th Street or the areas in Noblesville. This park has a couple of picnic tables and lots of huge trees. More recently this part was updated with a frisbee golf course.

Heritage Park

On the Fishers side of the river at 106th Street is Heritage Park. This is not a large park, but it has quite a bit of parking. In addition to a historic house, there park has a paved circular trail that goes down next to the river. This park is not the best access for the river, but can be used for fishing. In the winter time, this part is great for sledding as it is primarily a large hill.

96th Street

At 96th Street on the Southwest side there is access to another park. This is in Marion County, but borders Hamilton County. This park has more rugged bike trails and also provides access down to the river.

So much more

The areas I’ve listed above are primarily in Fishers. As you go further north in Hamilton County, you come to Koteewi Park. There are also campgrounds and a number of other public areas for river access.

If you go south into Marion County, you’ll find there is more access to the river. Access goes beyond just Broad Ripple and downtown Indianapolis.

The objective of the White River Vision Plan is to review all of the above parks, plus all of the ones I have not listed. The plan also looks at adding additional access points, paths, and more. On their website,, there is currently a survey where the public can provide feedback on existing destinations. You can say what you like, don’t like, or have used. The survey also lets you mark areas where you believe the river and area around it could be improved. Finally, the survey lets you say new areas you think should be created as a new destination.

What the Future Holds

The public meetings are a time when people are giving the WRVP committee feedback. Many people at the northern end of Hamilton County have made it clear they don’t want people that use the river to come onto their land. The committee plans to work with those land owners to help find a compatible way to tap the river while respecting privacy and ownership. Additionally, while the idea of trails along the river have been suggested, in areas where land is privately owned, such trails won’t happen. Where trails are possible, they are being suggested. While I’d like to see a trail similar to what is along the River from Potters Bridge to Forrest Park, the lack of public land simply doesn’t make this possible. A similar trail from 96th Street to 146th would be better than any Rail Trails that could be built!

HSE School Board Candidancy

As many people know, I’m one of the few (if not the only) people that regularly attend the school board meetings that is not either on the board or paid staff of the school system. I attend these meetings for a variety of reasons; however, the primary reason is because it is a source of firsthand information related to our schools and our city; information that impacts our kids. Our kids spend roughly a third of their day within the school system, so the decisions made by this group of people impact their lives in both positive and negative ways. With a budget twice that of the city’s, the school also has the potential to impact not only our kids, but the city around us.

I’ve been regularly asked if I will be running for a position on the Hamilton Southeastern School Board this election. While there are still a couple of days left to register, at this time I do not plan to run for a position, and thus will not be registering.

Over the years I’ve watched and noted decisions made by the school board, raised questions, and called out issues. I’ve done that without a seat at the table and plan to continue to do so. After all, it’s our kids that they are messing with. 

HSE School Safety Update

When it comes to security, Hamilton Southeastern Schools have done a lot since 2012. This includes adding secured vestibules, securing the school perimeters, the use of fobs, and more.

There continues to be a knee jerk reaction around the country when it comes to security. Unfortunately, but there isn’t just one solution to solve security in our schools. The hand-held metal detectors that the governor offered are starting to come arrive at schools; however, these are a solution fraught with more issues than even the full sized metal detectors. Even so, schools are snatching these up.

While people will often want to point to a single person to be responsible for security, HSE schools have changed the focus to empower everyone in the district all the way down to students.  In addition to students, this includes parents, staff, and members of the community including police officers, firemen, and other public departments.

Regardless of who is empowered, at the end of the day, we must deal with the “Why”. Even though many people are looking for instantaneous results on what should be done to secure schools, the issues won’t be solved until there is an understanding of why the violence is happening.

For Hamilton Southeastern Schools (HSE), additional changes are being proposed for the 2018-19 school year. HSE’s security protocols and policies are already considered among the best in the state of Indiana with HSE schools being considered a leader. Even so, safety is a topic that will receive a continuing review and changes.

I’ve written on safety in previous articles, so the list of core safety topics that were raised at the most recent school board meeting should be no surprise. The list of changes for 2018-19 include:

  • Metal detector wands
    The governor of Indiana provided metal detector wands to Indiana schools at not cost to the schools. They offer to provide one wand for every 250 students. HSE schools ordered 91 wands. (Carmel-Clay schools only ordered 30). While these wands are coming into the schools now, the principals have been told to keep these in the boxes. There is the potential for legal liability if wands are used in the wrong way. In addition to the legal issues, there also needs to be training as well as a definition of how they will and won’t (as well as can and can’t) be used.
  • Additional School Resource Officers (SROs)
    One of the biggest of focus for school security is School Resource Officers (SROs). As mentioned in a previous article, HSE had seven SROs in 2017-18. The plan for 2018-19 is to add two additional SROs for a total of nine. One of these has already been hired and has started at New Britton Elementary school. The other SRO has been identified, but needs his current position back-filled before they can move forward. As mentioned in a previous article, SRO positions are not ones that can be filled quickly.For HSE, the overall cost of having nine SROs will be roughly a million dollars with the school district covering half (~$497,000) of this. The school will get a $50,000 Safe Schools Grant that will also go to funding the SROs. The breakdown of this cost is spread across salary, benefits, training costs, and incidentals such as uniforms.
  • Additional ALICE Training
    The HSE schools have been doing ALICE training since 2011 and will continue the training with renewed vigor. ALICE training is done within the schools at in age appropriate manner–what is done at the high school is not the same as what is done at the elementary level.
  • Ongoing Safety Audits
    The SROs did physical safety audits for all of the schools this summer.
  • Continued Mental Health Focus
    Thirteen therapists are staffed in the HSE school buildings as part of a program with Community Health Network. A fourteenth therapist will be added in 2018-19 to address a request for more help at the high school level. We have struggling kids, and the use of mental health services has the potential to change the “why” portion of security issues.
  • Trauma Informed Care
    This is empathetic practices that works to inform teachers so that they can understand the issues specific kids might have.
  • Identity Safe Schools – Equity & Inclusion
    When students walk into the HSE schools, they need to be in a judgement free zone. Kids have different needs, and we don’t want the stress of an individual student to exceed their coping mechanisms. We want to get to any kids that are stressed or have issues at the ground level so they can get the support they need.
  • Parental Advisory Committee
    While there have been a couple of meetings around security, there is going to be a more formal parental advisory committee formed. Many people have expressed interest in being part of a committee, so a group will be formed to provide a cross section across all 21 schools. Potential candidates for being part of such committee are being vetted to make sure the right representation is established.

These are the areas that were mentioned. Part of the security process is to not share everything that is happening to secure the schools. As such, the above can be seen as the minimum updates for the 2018-19 school year. Of course, the most important thing that was stated for securing our schools was the continuing efforts to forge relationships with parents, students, and the community to keep communication open and everyone aware. The key to safety is to know that the answer to “Who is involved with school safety?” is all of us.

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Discipleship Training

I’ve been working on a number of projects. This includes stepping into a publisher role and publishing two books:

These books take a question and answer workbook format for learning about the core fundamentals of Christian discipleship. The second book on Christian Outreach provides scriptural insight into doing outreach. With these books, you can use scripture references to answer questions on the given topics. These questions guide you to not only understand the topic, but also help you understand the Biblical source for the answers. For those that prefer to shortcut the workbook process, the second half of each book contains the answers and scripts.

Both of these books are available now on for under $10 each.

These are the first of two books that I’ve published. My intent is to continue to publish books for not only others (such as these), but also my own publications. If you need editing services or are looking to get your own book published (for your own use or to sell publicly), I’m able to provide services for a relatively low fee!

If you are interested in quantity purchase of the above two books (10 copies or more of any topic) to use in your small group or other gathering, then contact me. I might be able to get you a discount.