Gov. Holcomb Cuts Ribbon On 100th Mile Of Next Level Trails


C&O Trail Extension Provides New Connections in Merrillville & Lake County

MERRILLVILLE – Gov. Eric J. Holcomb today joined the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the town of Merrillville, and the Lake County Parks and Recreation Department to celebrate the official opening of the recently completed C&O Trail. The new trail marks the 100th mile of trail built under the Next Level Trails program (NLT).

“One hundred miles is more than just a milestone achievement for Indiana,” said Gov. Holcomb. “The completion of this trail section in Lake County represents the incredible collaboration we’ve seen across the state as Hoosiers have come together with the support of our Next Level Trails program to make more connections. This momentum can be felt in every corner of Indiana, and it will continue as more Hoosiers hit the trails this year.”

The collaborative effort between the town of Merrillville and Lake County Parks fills a major gap in the existing regional trail network. With help from an $804,160 grant, Lake County Parks built the county’s 1.47-mile segment of the C&O Trail. Merrillville received a $1,428,091 grant to complete its 1.35-mile portion of the trail. Both units of government received their grants in April 2022 as a part of the third grant round of NLT, creating a combined 2.82 new miles of trail.

Merrillville’s section of the trail begins at Innsbrook Country Club, connecting to the existing C&O Trail. The new trail extends north, passing nearby residential subdivisions and meets Lake County’s section of the trail west of Hendricks Street. Lake County’s portion of the project continues west, connecting to the Oak Savannah Trail, which extends to join the 17.7-mile Erie Lackawanna Trail, making connections to communities throughout northwest Indiana.

Rick Bella, president of the Merrillville Town Council, expressed his appreciation for the support and cooperation that brought the project to fruition.

“I extend our deepest gratitude to Governor Holcomb and the state program for their invaluable support in making this transformative trail connection possible,” he said. “This project epitomizes successful collaboration between Merrillville, Lake County, and the state, bridging a crucial gap in our regional trail network.

“With the generous $804,160 grant from Lake County and the $1,428,091 grant awarded to Merrillville, we have collectively added 2.82 miles of new trail, enriching recreational opportunities for our residents and visitors alike.”

Jim Basala, chief executive officer of Lake County Parks, issued an open invitation to the public to use the new trail extension.

“We want everyone to have an opportunity to get out and explore the amazing natural spaces available to them in Lake County, and we’re excited that the extension of the C&O Trail makes that possible for even more people,” he said.

As part of Gov. Holcomb’s Next Level Connections initiative, NLT is the largest-ever infusion of trail funding in Indiana’s history. The nationally recognized grant program is designed to incentivize collaborative efforts to accelerate both local and regional trail connections across the state. To date, NLT has awarded $180 million to 89 projects across the state.

Of these NLT projects, 34 are already completed, contributing 100 miles of trail since the program’s inception. Several projects are under construction, with many more scheduled to break ground later this year.

In December 2023, Gov. Holcomb announced that 14 communities received a combined $31.2 million for 28 miles of new trail as a part of NLT’s fourth round. The grants awarded in the fourth round include seven regional projects and seven local projects. The list of awards, project descriptions.