HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. – A vote Monday in Hamilton County will likely spell the end of the Indiana State Fair train just days before the fair is set to begin.
People in Noblesville and Fishers are fired up tonight over the vote to turn the Nickel Plate Rail there into a greenway.
The $9.3 million “rails to trails” plan has been controversial since it was announced earlier this year. Monday’s approval paves the way for that proposal to move forward.
The mayor of Fishers was quick to announce his pleasure with the results.
“I really think it’s a win-win, where we’re able to progress the trail concept forward to connect Indianapolis, city of Fishers, city of Noblesville, but at the same time allow Noblesville to maintain that history and heritage with the rail line going north into the rural parts of Hamilton County,” said Mayor Scott Fadness.
But thousands of his and Noblesville’s residents are still fighting it.
“Currently I drive downtown every day and I’ve really been hoping for a light rail,” said Elizabeth Robinette, a “Save the Nickel Plate” supporter. “This is the perfect opportunity to have one and now we’re talking about tearing it up.”
Robinette was one of many who went to the Noblesville Chipotle Monday evening to discuss their disappointment in the early morning vote and plan how to continue their battle. Critical to their mission is fundraising, which is the reason they all gathered at the restaurant. They hope proceeds from “Save the Nickel Plate” supporters who ordered at Chiptole will help fund their efforts.
“Trails need to go where people want to go, not where trains happened to go at one point,” said Mike Corbett of Noblesville
Fadness says surveys show Fishers residents want more walking and biking trails, and he believes this was one of the best ways to accomplish that.
“When you think about the financial ramifications of making sure that rail is safe for the long term, I think most residents would choose, ‘I’ll take my car to the fair and I’ll build a trail,’” said Fadness. “From my estimation, I think more people in the Fishers area, residents of Fishers, would like to see a trail.”
But Corbett points to internet petitions to help prove that’s not the case. The one to save the Nickel Plate rail line has more than 6,000 supporters, although many signees are from outside Hamilton County.
Rail preservationists say that’s a good thing because it shows the rail line with a train is a tourist attraction, unlike a greenway.
A petition for paving the tracks has just over 140 signatures, which includes a few from opponents like Corbett, trying to advance the “save” position.
“I don’t know where these people are!” exclaimed Mike Corbett. “There are so many people who are in favor of the train and it’s very hard to find people who just want exclusively a trail.”
Right after that fundraiser today at Chipotle, those trying to save the Nickel Plate rail regrouped at a meeting.
With federal rail banking approval and funding still needed, they feel the fight isn’t over, until it is.