NEW ALBANY — It just doesn’t seem like it belongs. At the end of Main Street are warehouses, a trucking firm, the abandoned Moser Tannery and a few businesses. But beyond all of that is something that seems better suited for a postcard than inside the city limits of New Albany.
“It’s a hidden treasure,” Alicia Meredith, New Albany Parks Department director, said. “It’s beautiful. Where else in New Albany can you be out in nature like this.”
The treasure is the Loop Island Wetlands, and for years it has been blocked by its industrial surrounding. But as the Greenway prepares to open soon, Loop Island is also undergoing a facelift that will make it much more inviting to the public.
“It’s exciting. It’s a one-of-akind unique area,” New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan said. “You can take a walk from our historic downtown and in a short time be in a wonderful piece of nature in New Albany. It’s a great project.”
Work began this week to clear and build up sections of the walking path through the Loop Island area. As visitors wind their way down the path, there is a clearing area near the Ohio River that offers a great view.
Workers will use existing debris and create a sitting space that looks out over the river. The path will eventually go along Silver Creek once the work is completed by EZ Construction.
Crews are currently putting rocks down in the low areas of the path.
“We want to create an environment that is conducive to everybody,” Meredith said. “We want to make it more inviting and encourage hiking, walking, biking ... we just want people to be able to enjoy nature.”
While Loop Island is not part of the seven-mile Greenway, it does run alongside it and will benefit from the extra foot traffic. Work at Loop Island is expected to be finished by the end of the year.
The city acquired the 50-acre Loop Island Wetlands a few years ago and thanks to a $5 million gift from the Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County to improve areas along the riverfront and downtown, plans were made to improve access to the area.
“I can’t thank the Horseshoe Foundation enough for their contribution,” Gahan said. “We wouldn’t have been able to develop Loop Island without their grant.”
The trail has not been measured, but does not seem overly long. And there is plenty of wildlife, from frogs to deer, that will greet you along the path.
“This is not your typical neighborhood park,” Meredith said. “We wanted to keep it a nature preserve and didn’t want to add a bunch of amenities and electricity. That takes away from it. We don’t want it to lose its natural draw. Each time you come out here you see something [wildlife]. “
Gahan said he always encourages people to visit Loop Island and believes the improvements will draw more people to the area.
“It will introduce a lot of people for the first time to Loop Island,” he said. “It’s something I believe everybody should check out.”