Noblesville recently partnered with Fishers and the county on a plan to take out the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks and turn the right of way into a trail. I love trails. In fact I have advocated for them in my past two elections, even to the extent that I included an image of a bike on my campaign signs in the last election. We need more trails going to more places in Noblesville for a number of reasons. It would help relieve traffic congestion, improve the health of our citizens, improve the look of the city and add to our quality of life. Yes, trails are great, but it is a HUGE mistake to tear out the Nickel Plate tracks to create a trail. Here’s why.
Communities have been converting rails to trails for some 30 years or longer, but virtually all of them are on abandoned railbeds. Once the railroad is no longer being used and the tracks are deteriorating, it makes sense to take out the rails and use the space for a better purpose. But that’s not the case here. The Nickel Plate tracks were being used up until a year or two ago by a private non-profit to run trains to the State Fair and other excursions that were very popular. In fact, the Indiana Transportation Museum maintained both its equipment and the tracks with revenue from fares. No public funds were used for
But, in a classic case of government overreach, the cities and county decided they wanted a trail, which costs millions in public funds, to replace the railroad, which was self-supporting. It is simply unacceptable for government to purposely drive a thriving non-profit out of business and replace it with a subsidized public amenity, especially when it entails destroying irreplaceable assets like the railroad tracks.
The Nickel Plate is the second oldest railroad in the state. It is a unique public asset that other communities would love to have. The right of way extends all the way into downtown Indianapolis and Hamilton County owns it! The potential for excursion trains to Colts and Pacers games is just the beginning. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision other creative uses but our political leaders don’t see it.
I can understand why Fishers may not appreciate a train. The city has never had many historic assets and has little appreciation for historic artifacts now. But for our city leaders to roll over for Fishers’ plan instead of standing up for Noblesville’s values is tragic. The citizens made their feelings clear in a public meeting, unanimously speaking out for the train. But the comments fell on deaf ears as the administration proceeded to sign on completely to Fishers’ plan.
The fight isn’t over. The tracks are still intact but a federal panel has granted permission to rip them up and a Fishers committee is making plans now for the trail. I don’t believe Noblesville has the funds or a plan for its part of the trail. The Transportation Museum is being evicted from Forest Park and there’s little left of trains in Noblesville. I will fight to save what little we still have left and get back as much as we can of what we’ve lost. But this sad and sordid story will not end well unless we make significant changes in City Hall.
Learn more about the Nickel Plate issue: