Why the Cultural Trail Rocks

Image credit: Curtis Ailes

The Cultural Trail is generally viewed as a successful project by downtown boosters, but it is not without some reasonable criticism.  This post is not intended to be a rebuttal to Connie Ziegler’s provocative post, but rather a reaffirmation of my own feelings towards the trail.

Last Saturday I rode my bike down most of the completed portion of the trail.  Here’s what my route looked like:

Here’s a rundown of why I love the trail:

  • Crossing city streets on bike or foot no longer feels like a dangerous task.
  • A few prime parking spots along Massachusetts Avenue have been lost forever.  The world has not ended.
  • After I left the Cultural Trail and rode down West Street, I suddenly remembered what it was like to be on a be on a widened street intended for vehicles to travel as fast as possible.  And then I remembered that is what life is like along a good portion of our city’s streets.
  • Stopping at a place like Tavern on South for a beer or 2 is more rewarding when one doesn’t have to worry driving a car.  This has nothing to do with the Cultural Trail per se, but needs to be mentioned regardless.
  • Art installations for personal reflection and potential conversation.
  • Anything that can draw more people to the American Legion Mall is a good thing.  These parks between Meridian and Pennsylvania are a civic treasure.  Let’s use them!
  • Potential for development.  Trailside on Mass may be the first multi-use structure to use its name to draw inspiration from the trail, but it might not be the last.
  • The light installations.  I wasn’t sure about them at first, but I’ve come to realize that they help the city seem more vibrant and forward-thinking.
  • I’ll let Curt Ailes speak about this in detail: Rain gardens.

I’m sure there are more positives than this.  I would guess that others will mention them in the comments.  Please feel free to inspire me even further.

Comments 4

  • I think your list is a great start. I would add the general perception of downtown. Leaders have shown an investment in something progressive that had been missing for a while. The trail also encourages corridors or higher intensity foot traffic to specific areas increasing the likelyhood for denser development or improved districts. I for one will make use of the trail even if it is a block or two out of the way. The trail also seems to be its own space, Something uniques in the city even though it is a very open sidewalk.

  • We love the trail and use it almost daily. The separation between bicycle and walking pedestrians is a great addition, as in Broad Ripple, a nice day on the Monon can be more congested than some of the busiest city streets and highways.

  • The Cultural Trail rocks for several reasons:

    1.) It’s a great physical improvement to a non-existing infrastructure the city DESPERATELY needed (safe bike & pedestrian lanes); it also provides a semi-permanent reason for health, appreciation of landscape, and interest in the built environment.

    2.) The private donations can be seen as a wonderful success for relations between public and private organizations. Let’s hope more of these kinds of projects occur in the area thanks to either wealthy individuals, businesses, or corporations that are willing to be generous and gift the community over the interests of self.

    3.) Provides hope for everyone that is willing to notice or look for it. This project is a huge brightspot in downtown because it’s a constant physical reminder that we as a society can work together and improve.

    On an unrelated sidenote, I really needed to share this idea. I have always thought Indy needs a truly inconic structure that relates to the city, culture, and ideas for the future. In my opinion, it should look something like this:

    link for structural concept for Indy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielwidrig/2649938773/in/photostream

    Something modern, forward-thinking, organic, and reflective without being too literal or harsh would be a perfect fit for Indianapolis.


  • This project is original. I like the fact that it was done with private/public cooperation. In my opinion, another project that is even more “world class” and unique is IMA’s “200 acres”. I get little annoyed with people that say this city never does anything innovative or progressive. These two projects alone tell a different story.

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