Thursday, October 21st 2021, 5:16 PM ED

NORTH JUDSON – The state will Friday kick off a celebration of trails with a ribbon cutting in Starke County. Governor Eric Holcomb declared 2021-2022 as “Indiana’s Year of the Trails” following a resolution passed by the Indiana General Assembly earlier this year.

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy says the designation “creates an opportunity to bring trails users, business owners, nonprofits, local and state elected officials, and other stakeholders together to experience Hoosier trails and share the value of walking, biking and other non-motorized infrastructure for all Indiana residents and visitors.”

Officials will kick off the year-long celebration by cutting the ribbon on the Erie Trail Extension along the Great American Rail-Trail in North Judson. Other events are set to take place this weekend in Muncie, Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.

“Indiana’s Year of the Trails creates a meaningful opportunity to foster community around the trail network that’s growing across the state,” said Brian Housh, Midwest policy manager for the RTC and a lead organizer behind the initiative. “It gives us a chance to celebrate iconic projects like the Great American Rail-Trail, which will connect hundreds of miles of trail in Indiana and will bring significant economic, health, recreational, safety and other quality of life benefits to Hoosiers.”

Housh says the celebration sets up for efforts during the next legislative session as trail stakeholders will be looking to secure permanent funding for the governor’s $150 million Next Level Trails program, which was established in 2018. The RTC says permanent funding would amount to $10 million annually.