The Warrick Trails Tecumseh Trail project in Lynnville is getting a boost from Indiana's Next Level Trails grants.

The awards for Next Level Trails were announced last week. The 2.25-mile Tecumseh Trail project shows plans to connect Tecumseh High School with Lynnville Park the Coal Museum and downtown Lynnville.

Former Warrick Trails president and current board member Steve Roelle said the grant allows the project to move forward and break ground. While the project has raised funds in order to start the survey and engineering processes to plan the project, he said the grant from the state will push the project forward.

"The grant gets us across the finish line to where we can finally start," he said.

Roelle said the Tecumseh Trails is important for the residents who live in the area. He said drumming up resources in rural areas can be tough, but the residents that live in the area shouldn't

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be left out.

"Every one of those rural residents deserves the same quality of life initiatives that everyone else is working towards," he said.

Roelle noted several sources that came together to raise funds both cash and in-kind toward the project before the state grant was awarded. He said almost $400,000 was raised for the project ahead of the state's award including money raised by local individuals and organizations who rallied behind the project.

"You could see how important it was to those residents," he said. "It's something we can be really proud of as a county."

Roelle said the project is also important as it extends the reach of Warrick Trails to the northern area of the county. He said the goal for Warrick Trails was always to extend the initiative to all areas in Warrick County.

"Warrick trails is our mission and that involves trying to connect all our communities and touch each of our schools," he said.

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director Cameron Clark announced last week that 17 communities and non-profit organizations will receive $24.9 million for 42 miles of new trail development as a part of the initial round of the Next Level Trails program.

"These 17 projects are a tremendous investment in quality of life for Hoosiers as trails create important connections within and between communities across our state," Gov. Holcomb said. "Our growing network of trails is more than a recreational and transportation amenity - it's an important tool for economic development by helping Indiana attract and retain the best workforce in the country."

Next Level Trails is the largest infusion of trails funding in state history. The $90 million grant program is divided into two components: a $70 million fund for regional projects and a $20 million fund for local projects. A total of $25 million was available for the first round, including $20 million for regional projects and $5 million for local projects.

The Tecumseh Trails project was one of seven local projects from across the state chosen for the first round of awards. The grants in the first round also included 10 regional projects.

DNR received applications for 82 projects located in 42 counties, requesting a total of nearly $144 million in funding for more than 240 proposed miles of hiking, biking and riding trails. DNR reviewed the applications for eligibility, and a multi-agency committee evaluated the proposals based on the Next Level Trails program objectives.

In addition to the $24.9 million awarded through Next Level Trails, the 17 grant recipients contributed $12.5 million in matching value, resulting in $37.4 million total investment for trails. The program requires a minimum 20 percent project match, which can include monetary contributions, land value, and in-kind donations of materials and labor.

"The additional leverage provided by community partners above and beyond the program match requirement speaks to the local support these projects enjoy and helps to stretch these dollars for more miles of trail," said DNR director Cameron Clark. "It's exciting to see local governments, non-profits, philanthropy, and the business community work together to build trails."

Next Level Trails is part of Gov. Holcomb's $1 billion Next Level Connections infrastructure program, which accelerates the completion of major highway projects, expands access to rural broadband services, creates more nonstop flights and pursues the expansion of rail projects in northwest Indiana.

The DNR expects to announce the next application period for funding later this year. Three rounds of funding are planned. More information about Next Level Trails can be found at: on.IN.gov/nextleveltrails.

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