More recreational amenities will be coming to New Albany over the next few years.
At least three projects are in the works that will extend the Ohio River Greenway and improve access to tributaries of the Ohio River.
Silver Creek Access
In the early part of the 20th century, residents of New Albany flocked to Glenwood Park in the city’s east end during the summer. The park, which bordered Silver Creek, offered a place to enjoy time in the sun, even allowing people to canoe the creek.
Over the decades, access to Silver Creek has become increasingly limited, especially once the city’s flood walls were erected. But New Albany Redevelopment Director Josh Staten said the city is hoping to change that.
“Obviously, reconnecting with Silver Creek is a huge, huge priority for us, because it offers so much,” he said. “Right now, you’re seeing throughout the country a rise in ecotourism. You’re seeing a lot of younger people, when they go on vacation, they may not be looking for amusement parks anymore. They’re like, ‘Where can I go and walk on some trails? Where can I go and be immersed in nature?’”
Silver Creek Landing will give residents a chance to partake in activities on and around the waterway. The site will be located where Spring Street transitions into Brown’s Station Way.
Just like the park located here a century ago, people will once again be able to take non-motorized boats, kayaks and canoes on the water. Some of the preliminary pieces of the project are already in place, including a small parking lot and decorative lighting near the waterway.
Though the timeline is still fluid, Mayor Jeff Gahan said he hopes to see some portions completed in the next few years.
The project won’t involve a major overhaul of the land, Gahan noted. Instead, it will be more of a manicuring process of the existing grounds, with ramp installations to make access to the water easier.
“We’re not talking about a grand concrete platform,” Gahan said. “We’re talking about access to the water of Silver Creek… Before we got here, literally there was no access.”
Another component of Silver Creek Landing will be the extension of New Albany’s Greenway trail to the site. The Greenway runs along the Ohio River from around the Sherman Minton Bridge to the city’s eastern border with Clarksville.
The extension will start at Loop Island, one of New Albany’s most recent additions to the Greenway. From there, it will run along the flood wall before terminating at a trailhead near Silver Creek Landing.
Connectivity is an added feature of the project, Staten said. The trail will connect with areas that previously had no access to the Greenway, thus allowing people to walk to the Ohio River without having to cross busy roads in the city.
“People north of Spring Street will have access,” Staten said. “They’ll be able to come down from that area, go under on Providence Way and connect up to the Greenway without ever having to cross Spring Street. That’s the goal of this.”
The Greenway extension won’t end with Silver Creek Landing. City officials are also looking to upgrade western portions of the trail.
The former site of QRS Recycling was acquired by the city in 2017. There, officials plan to construct the “River Rec” portion of the trail. It’s design, Staten added, will be similar to that of Waterfront Park in Louisville.
“The QRS site is moving forward,” Staten said. “We’re doing some environmental cleanup at the former QRS site further west, which will be the western anchor of the Greenway.”
Rails To Trails
The third project currently in discussion is one that will likely take much more time to complete than the Greenway upgrades. The city is currently in discussions with CSX to purchase a stretch of abandoned rail lines.
Gahan said the goal is to take 63 miles of track and convert it into a pathway through Southern Indiana as part of a rails to trails endeavor. The path along the railroad grade will begin in New Albany, near Indiana University Southeast, and extend to Bedford. Eventually, a path through the city will also connect the rails to trails site with the Greenway.
“What’s marvelous about it is the path on the CSX trail covers a lot of beautiful land, and it crosses some waterways, then ultimately connects to the Ohio River,” Gahan said. “The portions that are most exciting to me in the grand scheme of this is connecting people back to not just each other, but the land.”
Between the three projects in New Albany, along with work being done on the riverfront in nearby Clarksville and Jeffersonville, city officials believe Southern Indiana will soon be an eco-tourism destination.
Gahan believes they will amplify the existing beauty of the Ohio River Valley.
“If all those things work together, it’ll be worth the traveling and worth anybody’s vacation time to come down and enjoy what we have going on here in Southern Indiana,” he said. “Southern Indiana has got a lot of things going for it right now. And I see a really bright future as it pertains to connecting to the natural beauty of the land.”