CLARKSVILLE – The completion of a newly constructed pedestrian bridge spanning Silver Creek has opened up a much-anticipated path for foot and bike traffic between New Albany and Clarksville – and it has local leaders dreaming big about the opportunities it brings.
The new bridge, which replaced an old railroad bridge, is the last major phase of a bigger Ohio River Greenway project called the Lewis and Clark Trail.
When completed in the spring, this seven-mile trail will link those two communities together with Jeffersonville along the Ohio River Greenway.
This is a significant milestone for the development because, for the first time ever, it is possible for pedestrians and cyclists alike to travel between all three communities, with access to and from Louisville.
While people have already begun utilizing the bridge, Clarksville’s Parks and Recreation Superintendent Brian Kaluzny is quick to note the overall project is not complete nor does the town have oversight of the bridge or trail at this point.
“It’s not ours yet,” he said. “It will remain under the contractor until next May or so.”
Kalunzy said there is still landscaping, paving and additional detail work needing to be done on the segment – most notably at Bailey Avenue – before the project is completed.
However, once it is finished by E&B Construction in the spring and handed over to Clarksville, town leaders say they will be ready to receive it.
“The completion of the Ohio River Greenway segment in Clarksville – plus the construction of the bridge over Silver Creek – has been in the works for several years,” Clarksville Town Manager Kevin Baity said.
“When completed in early 2019, this segment will be the connection between Jeffersonville and New Albany (for Clarksville) and will be a very key part of the South Clarksville Redevelopment and River Heritage projects.”
Established in 2001 after several years of talks, the Ohio River Greenway Commission was created. The project was developed to increase public access to the riverfront via foot and bike in all three communities.
With an overall cost of approximately $42 million, funding for the entire Ohio River Greenway development has come from federal dollars, as well as private partnerships and public funding from local municipalities, according to information at ohiorivergreenway.org.
As previously reported in the News and Tribune, there are portions of the Ohio River Greenway that still need an official trail, including a few hundred feet in Jeffersonville near Buckhead and Kingfish. However, a significant portion of the overall development is done.
The east end of the Ohio River Greenway trail begins in Jeffersonville near the former Jeffboat site and extends to Big Four Station before leading to Clarksville’s Ashland Park area.
The trail then runs along the Falls of the Ohio, and it continues along Harrison Avenue and Emory Crossing. From Clarksville, the trail crossing Silver Creek will lead to the Loop Islands Wetlands at the eastern edge of New Albany.
The New Albany portion passes through a forested area with a connecting trail head at 18th Street, continuing to the New Albany Amphitheater at Sixth Street and culminates in a large space for additional recreational activities — boat ramp, picnic area and private development — at 10th Street in New Albany.
The Lewis and Clark Trail is not the first segment Clarksville has contributed to the Ohio River Greenway.
The town previously created other sections of the trail in the last six years — the Levy Trail between the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center and Bailey Avenue, and another from the interpretive center through Ashland Park.
Clarksville town council member John Gilkey said his town will benefit greatly from the bridge opening, as well as the overall Ohio River Greenway project.
“This is a very positive move for Clarksville,” he said. “Development of a recreational corridor along the Ohio River will be a major component to augment the town’s south-end development.”
Gilkey praised the ongoing work of Clarksville’s town manager and park and recreation superintendent in their oversight of the Lewis and Clark trail segment.
“Brian Kaluzny and Kevin Baity have worked closely with the town council in this project, and both have been extremely helpful in moving the project forward,” he said.
Clarksville’s future keeps getting brighter, Gilkey said, thanks to the overall Ohio River Greenway initiative.
“As we work toward a major park-like setting along the riverfront, we are bringing Clarksville closer to a wholesale revitalization of the south end,” he said.
“I look forward to working with the full council, the parks department, our town manager and other community assets who will help to bring this dream to reality.”
In Jeffersonville, Mayor Mike Moore said he is also excited by the progress being made in completing the long-term vision for the Ohio River Greenway.
In fact, he said the city could very well take additional steps to extend the Ohio River Greenway even further than originally planned.
“I love the progress we’re making with the Greenway, but I want to push the envelope even further,” Moore said.
“I’m going to continue to press the owners of JeffBoat to donate Jeffersonville the land and strive for the Greenway to move east along the river through the shipyard and then take possession of the soon-to-be abandoned railroad tracks from Utica Pike all the way beyond 10th Street.”
New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan is looking forward to the opportunities the Ohio River Greenway project creates for his city.
He said he commends Clarksville’s work on the Lewis and Clark Trail, especially with the bridge that connects the two communities, and he added work continues to build upon what’s already been accomplished in his city.
“New Albany recently acquired the property known as Loop Island, and trail stabilization work is being wrapped up there now. Also, the western most portion of Greenway has been purchased by New Albany, and we are moving forward with plans and design 40 acres near the Sherman Minton Bridge,” he said.
“For the first time in over 100 years the citizens of New Albany are the owners of their riverfront, and the property will be dedicated to the public domain insuring public access to our most celebrated resource – The Mighty Ohio River.”
Gahan said the City of New Albany has invested nearly $30 million in property, design and construction to date for its portion of the Ohio River Greenway.
“Also, stay tuned for more announcements concerning the conversion of the CSX rails to trails,” he said. “This north-south trail will connect 63 miles of the most scenic Hoosier landscape to New Albany and the Greenway. We are building a national treasure in our backyard for those who appreciate nature and enjoy the health benefits of being active outdoors.”