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January 13, 2012

NASH: Greenway project in full swing

FLOYD COUNTY — At the first meeting of the New Albany City Council for 2012, there wasn’t much on the agenda. Election of officers, appointment of committees and municipal boards (which was postponed) were some of the very few things that needed to get done.

About 30 minutes into the meeting it looked like it was about time to adjourn and everyone would get to go home early. That’s when Shauna Graf, project coordinator for The Ohio River Greenway Development Commission, got up and gave her annual update on the progress of the Greenway.

The 25-minute presentation was a look at the history, progress and the future plans of the project.

At first glance The Ohio River Greenway appears to be just a concrete path along the river, but it is more than that. According to their mission, the “Ohio River Greenway is to provide a common linkage between the communities of Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany, Indiana, along the banks of the Ohio River and to promote a passive recreational environment for river access, while allowing each community to construct riverfront amenities to enhance the overall project.”

Many people are aware of the Greenway progress around New Albany near the amphitheater, as part of the Scribner Place project. The next phase of the project is preparing to open between 18th Street and the Loop Island Wetlands. With the very nice weather that we have had over the last couple of weeks, I was able to get out and enjoy the newest segment of the project.

I decided to start at the entrance to the Loop Island Wetlands and work my way back toward town. While the pathway is not 100 percent completed, it is to the point where citizens can enjoy a piece of New Albany that most people have never seen. The day I went out, there were construction workers putting the finishing touches on some railing and cleaning debris from the path.

The old entrance to the Loop Island Wetlands is still where it always was, but now as soon as you enter, there is a roundabout path that has benches for sitting and resting and just watching nature. I hadn’t walked 100 yards when I saw an “exotic” creature and captured a picture of a small woodpecker.

The path from there heads west along the concrete floodwall and up a railed path to the top of the levee trail. From there, you walk along the top of the levee trail that curves around to conform to the shape of the Ohio River bank. Until spring arrives and the leaves return, you can see through the row of trees across the river to Sand Island and hear the echoes from the McAlpine Locks.

Then you walk down the levee trail to the entrance at the 18th Street floodwall. A sign welcomes you to the newest phase of the Ohio River Greenway project. A place for a few cars to park has been added so that people can stop and take a walk from 18th street to Loop Island Wetlands.

The Greenway will be a valuable asset to our community and to Southern Indiana, creating a new bond between our communities that will last for generations. One of the roadblocks to creating something really nice for every resident to enjoy has been a rash of vandalism. Several lights near the New Albany amphitheater have been damaged by vandals intent on destroying for the sake of destruction.

Along this newest segment of the Greenway path, graffiti covers the concrete floodwall. Gang signs, racial slurs and just your bored kids with a can of spray paint have covered portions of the wall.

You can see spots where some of the vandalism has already been covered up. I believe that the concrete floodwall would be a great place for a huge mural to be commissioned, maybe depicting the history of the region throughout the years from the Scribner Brothers to the 21st century.

Litter has also begun to be a problem with people just tossing garbage out and dumping their family garbage along the path. If the Ohio River Greenway is going to be a nice place for people to go and spend some of their recreation time, it has got to be treated with the respect it deserves.

With plans for the Big Four Bridge in full gear and the growing possibility of a pedestrian bike path across the K & I bridge, our region would have a complete loop that would be a resource for commuting or recreation which would rival any in the nation.

Southern Indiana communities will always be linked by our river heritage. When the Ohio River Greenway is finally completed from the Jeffersonville RiverStage to the New Albany Amphitheater, we will also be physically linked with a path between our communities.

I look forward to the continuation of this project and hope for its timely completion.

Matthew Nash can be contacted at dmatthewnash@gmail.com. You can find a photo essay of this column at MyFridayColumn.blogspot.com.

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