In the Muncie area, an estimated 250,000 people use the Cardinal Greenway each year for biking, walking, running and immersing themselves in nature.

Now, Anderson and Chesterfield could be next up for a highly anticipated greenway if a plan by the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) goes through.

The HEC is partnering with Friends of the White River to lobby against the proposed Mounds Lake Reservoir, which is currently stalled after town councils in Daleville and Yorktown voted in September not to join a commission to guide the project into a third phase of study.

Comparing the Mounds Greenway to the Mounds reservoir: 

Greenway: 

  • Cost: $15-$40 million proposed
  • Forests and wetlands protected
  • River's natural functions protected
  • No condemned land
  • Gives public access via trails and river access sites

Mounds reservoir: 

  • Cost: $440 million estimated
  • 980 aces of forest lost, more than 600 acres of wetlands filled
  • Nutrients and sediment collected by reservoir
  • Land condemned 
  • Gives public access via trails and boat ramps

In a rebuttal against the $450 million proposed reservoir project, the HEC brought back a proposal for a greenway to be constructed to follow the White River, linking Anderson to the Cardinal Greenway network in Delaware County.

“The damming of the West Fork White River would cause major environmental damage, replacing a high-quality, free-flowing river ecosystem with an artificial reservoir, in the process drowning unique natural areas in Mounds State Park, destroying healthy bottomland hardwood forest along the river, as well as working class neighborhoods in the city of Anderson,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director for HEC. “Man-made reservoirs are also vulnerable to siltation and blue-green algae contamination which seriously reduce their prospective benefits to anglers, boaters, lakefront property owners, and tourists,”

Mounds Greenway — named because of the proximity of Mounds State Park and the Great Mound earthen structure created by Native Americans centuries ago — started out as a dream in the 1990s. With the proposed Mounds Reservoir looming, biology professor David LeBlanc said there’s renewed interest in the idea.

“I worked with others to oppose the proposal to dam the White River in Anderson and create a reservoir that would have flooded land upstream well into Delaware County,” LeBlanc said. “After we had convinced the town councils in Delaware County to withdraw support for the dam project, the town leaders implored us to come-up with alternative ideas for economic development and improving quality of place in their towns.”

LeBlanc brought the proposal to the Ball State University Council on the Environment with the intent to improve and support sustainable economic development and conservation of natural systems in Delaware County and other neighboring areas.

He said HEC has funded a consulting firm to work to identify the benefits that might accrue to individuals, businesses, and local towns, cities and counties if the greenway were built. The report from that assessment is due any day now.

“Preliminary work has begun on potential routes for the Greenway, identifying landowners, existing bridges and roads, topographic barriers, and likewise,” LeBlanc said. “At least one or two open forums have been held to provide information to interested citizens, especially those who might be directly impacted by the greenway or associated business opportunities.”

LeBlanc said the purpose of the Mounds Greenway is to provide a recreational amenity for the citizens of Madison and Delaware counties that would provide opportunities for healthy recreational activities and non-motorized travel, increase tourism and associated economic development in cities and towns along the trail and enhance the quality of place in these localities.

“The Greenway would also be a great amenity for students at BSU,” LeBlanc said. “It will connect to the White River greenway just south of campus and allow students to hike, bike or skate all the way to Anderson.”

At first glance, freshman economics major Alexis Davis said the greenway would be a great location for students to go outside and exercise off-campus.

“I think it’s really easy for people to get sick of being on the campus and doing the same exercise activities,” Davis said. “I would totally ride my bike and jog on it, especially if it offers some cool scenery.”

The HEC estimates the initial cost of the Mounds Greenway to fall between $15 million and $40 million, with additional annual upkeep costs yet to be assessed. Most of the money would come from grants, according to an HEC press release. Cardinal Greenway requires from $500,000 to $800,000 for upkeep annually.

The greenway would stretch 20 miles from Edgewater Park in Anderson to the White River Trail in Muncie.

Delaware County is 83rd out of the 92 counties when it comes to health outcome, which is based on how long people live and how healthy people feel. 

The HEC hopes that the Mounds Greenway will help encourage residents in the area to live healthier lifestyles, in addition to the increased environmental sustainability that will be achieved.

However, not everyone in Central Indiana is a proponent for the proposed greenway. Harold Tarney, a longtime Delaware County resident, fears that the Mounds Greenway will be too costly for a recreational commodity.

"From what I've seen, it's not like anyone really uses the Cardinal Greenway that's already in place," Tarney said. "I'll be honest, I know I don't have a need or a desire for another recreational path, and I question how many others will really benefit from it."

While Tarney said he still thinks it's important to focus on preserving the environment, he believes a different initiative besides Mounds Greenway should be put in place to encourage healthy living.

"It would be really nice to see a nice recreation center put in place," Tarney said. "The greenway is a nice idea, but it costs a lot to upkeep, and there's no profit that can come directly from the greenway itself. If a center was built, it offers people a place to go year-round, and then profits can be made from membership fees."

If the Mounds Greenway is built as promised, Tarney said he would consider petitioning if taxpayer dollars are not being spent correctly towards the project.