Permission to reprint was given by the Spencer Evening World, where the original article was published on 12/12/2014:
Local Groups Announce MYpath Trail System Launch; Smithville Charitable Foundation Grant Adds Funding
A cooperative effort between three local organizations will bring new recreational opportunities to the people of Spencer and Owen County. The Owen County Community Foundation (OCCF), the Owen County Family YMCA, and the Owen County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) have officially announced the launch of the MYpath multi-use trail system that will eventually connect the YMCA to the west of Spencer and McCormick’s Creek State Park to the east.
“The MYpath name comes from the ‘M’ for McCormick and the ‘Y’ in YMCA, but it also speaks to the idea that the trail system can be what each resident wants it to be for their needs. We will all have our own MYpath,” said Mark Rogers, executive director of the OCCF.
Along with the launch announcement, the group recently learned that the Smithville Charitable Foundation (SCF) has granted $60,000 for the project startup. With an additional $30,000 grant from the OCCF the project is now a reality.
The idea for the trail system has been discussed as a concept for several years, but the parks plan developed by the Town of Spencer provided the final motivation to launch the project. Spencer currently has only one park property, Cooper Commons, but the input from the community during development of the parks plan was that families around the area are looking for more free or inexpensive activities for the entire family. MYpath is designed to help meet that need.
MYpath will consist primarily of sidewalks in Spencer, many requiring upgrade or replacement, and will also include a Riverfront Trail section and a safe walkway to the school complex west of town which will involve a safe crosswalk for students.
There are several main goals of the MYpath project. The group wants to provide safe walkways for our young residents to use while walking from town to Owen Valley High School, Owen Valley Middle School, and the YMCA. The group hopes to promote more walking and the health benefits it offers to residents. MYpath is also a way to coordinate efforts to clean up, repair, or replace sidewalks in town and make walking around Spencer easier and safer for older residents.
The trail system is also expected to increase the opportunities for healthy family recreation that is local and free to the public. MYpath’s connection to the Owen County Family YMCA will open up more access for local recreational facilities.
“The health benefits of walking to get around town are one of the main reasons the YMCA got involved in the project,” said Darrell White, president and CEO of the local community organization. “We love to have folks out here at the facility involved in healthy activity, and MYpath will help make healthy activity part of everyday life for more and more of our neighbors.”
The new project is also being designed to embrace the White River, long a key asset to our community but now difficult to use and appreciate for many people.
“We want to provide a new way to access the White River, with the opportunity to learn more about our local natural resources and the White River ecosystem,” offered Kelsey Thetonia, SWCD executive director.
Local history groups are also eager to use MYpath to provide information about Owen County’s history as a river commerce center and to highlight other historic sites along MYpath.
While the entire project and the connection between the Park and the YMCA will take years to complete, the first phase of MYpath will break ground in early 2015 and be completed in time for Owen County’s celebration of our state’s bicentennial celebration in 2016. Phase I will be to complete the MYpath segment from the intersection of Main Street and Hillside Avenue on the north edge of Spencer and continue along the east side of Main Street past the courthouse square and the war memorial south across the Veterans Memorial Bridge to connect with the Riverfront Trail.
The Riverfront Trail will proceed along the river on the south and east bank of the river, possibly along River Road for part of the route, as far as the Department of Natural Resources’ river access site. Any land acquisition will be through the willingness of the private landowners, not through condemnation or eminent domain.
McCormick’s Creek State Park, the Town of Spencer, Spencer-Owen Community Schools, and Owen County are also supporting the new project. MYpath organizers are also working with the Spencer Main Street group to make sure the efforts of both community improvement projects are coordinated.
The generous grant from the SCF demonstrates that group’s continuing support for the people of Owen County. SCF has previously supported the upgrade of the 4-H Community Building at the Fairgrounds, the playground at the YMCA, education programs in the Owen County Security Center, and funds to help in the 2008 flood recovery among other projects.
Part of the initial grant funding will allow the SWCD to provide project management for MYpath. The design, engineering, and land acquisition for MYpath will be handled through the SWCD. Future plans include recruiting a volunteer group to help with MYpath in a variety of ways.
“We are very excited to get started on this community project and are so thankful that we have been able to form a strong working group with so many other Owen County organizations,” added Rogers. “We are already hearing a lot of positive feedback on MYpath, so we are glad to get to work on it.”
Questions about the MYpath project may be directed to Kelsey Thetonia at the SWCD office at 812-829-2605. Anyone interested in making a donation to support the project can send their gift to the OCCF at P.O. Box 503, Spencer, IN 47460 and specify “MYpath Fund” on the check.