In 2000, the Eppley Institute conducted the first Indiana Trials Study to examine trail use, trail management, economic factors, and trail neighbor impacts on trails around the state. By 2006, the State had developed the Indiana Trails Plan with a goal of ensuring that every resident has access to a trail within 15 minutes or 7.5 miles of home. Since then, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, mileage of trails in Indiana has grown from 192 to 541. While this expansion effort is encouraging, Indiana still lags behind other Midwestern states in trail creation.
With the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation’s recent conversion to an accredited School of Public Health, Eppley was presented with opportunity and encouragement to expand the scope of research into the links between parks and public health. To this end, the Eppley research team began work to update the 2000 study with an emphasis on understanding the impacts of trails on physical, mental, and social health along with expanded looks at the use, management, economic, and community impact factors previously studied.
The 2016 Indiana Trails Study is currently in preliminary stages. The research team plans to train volunteers and begin collecting data by the summer. The hope is that convincing enough information will be collected on all the positive impacts of trails to spur lawmakers and civic leaders to further action to expand the statewide network of these beneficial and popular public amenities.