Northwest Indiana has long been connected by the natural beauty of its lakeshore, its rich ethnic and cultural diversity, and its industrial sector that is critical to the region and nation as a whole.
Bringing life to a vision that further builds upon these connections across the South Shore region is an ambitious project — the Marquette Greenway — that I am proud to support. When completed, the trail will connect Calumet Park in Chicago with New Buffalo, Michigan. The nearly 60-mile long path will feature an uninterrupted span of non-motorized trails, traversing through 15 communities along the way.
Intersecting the diverse landscape of the region, the trail will connect nearly 200,000 residents who live near the trail linking important historical sites, South Shore neighborhoods that have been home to families for generations, and the phenomenal ecological marvels of the Indiana Dunes National Park.
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Connections to this trail are even vaster, with the 450-mile Grand Illinois Trail from the west, the Harbor Country Trail network from the east, and the Burnham Greenway, Erie-Lackawanna Trail, Prairie-Duneland Trail and Dunes-Kankakee Trail from the south.
As health professionals, we know the benefits of physical activity like walking, biking and more. From improved cardiovascular, brain and bone health to a reduced risk of cancer and other diseases, exercise is good for our health and well-being.
Yet the Marquette Greenway will provide much more. This unique trail experience will offer access to natural and scenic areas, encouraging residents to get outside and enjoy the extraordinary scenery that Northwest Indiana offers. It will create healthier communities by connecting people with places and by building physical activity into a normal routine of life.
By encouraging an alternative route of traveling from one community to another, we can also reduce automobile emissions that pollute the air, and therefore improve the air quality in the region.
Studies also show that physical activity can improve overall mood, and that quality of life is a multi-dimensional concept that impacts physical, mental and emotional health. When we improve different areas of our lives, we can have a favorable impact on our health, and the Marquette Greenway offers ample opportunities to do just that.
This ground-breaking trail that spans three states has the potential to increase tourism in the region as part of a region-wide trail network tied to Chicago-based trails, as well as to create jobs and opportunities to support local independent businesses.
Individually and as a community, we all stand to benefit from this forward-thinking project. A variety of sources have provided funding for this trail, including most recently through state Next Level Trails and a federal RAISE grant.
I am excited to see the increased health opportunities and the improved quality of life that the completion of the Marquette Greenway will bring to the region. This long-awaited connection of our South Shore region is just one more reason we are proud to call Northwest Indiana home.
Ashley Dickinson, FACHE is chief executive officer of Northwest Health and on the board of directors for One Region. The opinions are the writer’s.