Newsletter: Next Level Trails (IN, March 2019)

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New Indiana Grant Makes Trail Connections

The largest infusion of state trail funding in Indiana history – $90 million – is available for the development of significant trails throughout the state.

The Next Level Trails (NLT) grant program, part of Governor Holcomb’s broader $1 billion Next Level Connections initiative, incentivizes collaborative efforts to accelerate regional and local trail connections for walkers and cyclists.

“It’s a first-year program, but I think it has all the makings of a great program,” said Mike Pavey, City of Rushville mayor. “I like the introduction of new money into the trails. Designating monies just for trails speaks volumes about the value of trails and the quality of life components.”

The NLT program, administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in conjunction with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), has $70 million set aside for regional projects and $20 million for local projects.

Each grant will require a minimum 20% project match, which can include monetary contributions, land value, and in-kind donations of materials and labor. Consideration will be given to projects that exceed the match requirement.

Projects funded through this program must be open to the public and completed within four years. They must also comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 where applicable.

Rushville hired Fleis & VandenBrink last month to apply for three NLT grants in the opening round.

“We’re shooting for the moon with the three different applications because sometimes review committees are looking for one kind of trail over another,” Pavey said.

Rushville already has nearly five miles of trails in the city and plans to construct another 1.06 miles for the Morgan Street Corridor Trail, 0.8 miles for the Riverside Park Levee Trail, and 1,000 feet to connect Carol Jenkins Davis Community Park.

“We have four or five miles of trails, but none are really connected,” Pavey noted. “A couple of the new trails will have a significant impact on the city’s connectivity.

“The Morgan Street Corridor Trail will connect just about everything that we’ve got.”

All three NLT projects have been identified as a high priority in several city planning documents, including the Rushville Comprehensive Plan, 5-Year Parks and Recreation Master Plan, ADA Transition Plan, Stellar Community Complimentary Plan, and the recently updated Rushville Trails Master Plan map document.

NLT funds will be awarded in rounds until all monies have been allocated. The next application deadline is still to be determined. The new trails funding will drive collaboration among neighboring cities, towns and counties and fill gaps among existing trails to create a larger network for more Hoosiers to enjoy the great outdoors.

Cities, towns and counties and 501(c) non-profit groups are eligible for the grants. Regional projects are eligible for $5 million each and local projects can receive up to $2 million.

Eligible trail-development projects should include trail construction. Additional costs pertinent to the trail development project, including design and engineering, upgrading trail-surface type, trail-corridor acquisition, and basic trail amenities, are also eligible. All ADA compliant non-motorized trail types and surfaces are considered eligible.

Grant recipients will receive funds upfront based on project milestones, including design and engineering, land acquisition and construction.

Applications will be reviewed by DNR staff for eligibility and completeness, and then evaluated by a committee staffed by multiple state agencies looking for projects that are part of an existing regional or comprehensive plan or:

  • Connect or extend existing trails
  • Connect multiple cities, towns or counties
  • Connect schools, parks, neighborhoods or local attractions
  • Further the completion of the State Visionary Trail System
  • Maximize partnerships

“The application wasn’t so cumbersome that you didn’t want to apply, but it was involved enough that it will weed out communities that aren’t prepared,” Pavey said.

If you need help understanding the Next Level Trails funding or application process or simply want to brainstorm on how to fund a trail project, contact Larry Lawlor at 800.494.5202 or

Download and print the PDF version here.