COMPLIMENTS FOR MADISON: Mark Becker, left, program director for the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust, talks with Bob Greene, executive director of the Heritage Trail Conservancy, during Becker’s visit Tuesday. The Nature Trust’s goal is to preserve the state’s important conservation and recreation areas.  (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
COMPLIMENTS FOR MADISON: Mark Becker, left, program director for the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust, talks with Bob Greene, executive director of the Heritage Trail Conservancy, during Becker’s visit Tuesday. The Nature Trust’s goal is to preserve the state’s important conservation and recreation areas. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie)
A representative from the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust - joined by a host of county and city officials - visited Madison on Tuesday to commend the community for its involvement in the growing nature preservation program Heritage Trail Conservancy and to announce a statewide grant opportunity.

Earlier this month, Bob Greene, executive director and president of the Heritage Trail Conservancy, announced that the organization purchased nearly 5 acres of riverfront property with the help of a $75,000 grant from the state trust.

"We're so grateful from the response we've had," Greene told a crowd gathered at the trail head on Vaughn Drive.

Through the Bicentennial Nature Trust, the state's goal is to permanently protect important conservation and recreation areas. When forming the trust in January 2012, former Gov. Mitch Daniels said that Indiana launched its state park system on its 100th birthday, so a statewide conservation initiative would be a fitting sequel.

"(The Heritage Trail) really meets what Gov. Daniels envisioned," said Mark Becker, trust program director. "You guys have something to be proud of here."

The state organization has a pot of $30 million - $10 million of which came from the Lilly Endowment - to distribute through 2016, which is the state's bicentennial. Each individual project has a limit of $300,000. Projects also have a 1:1 match, which means that for every dollar requested from the trust there must be a $1 non-trust fund match.

Becker said Madison is one of 28 communities to already have been selected for the funding, which is tied directly to land acquisitions. He added that the state currently has committed about $5 million of the $30 million available.

Because the Heritage Trail Conservancy purchased the riverfront plot at a decreased price of $100,000, the local organization must pay just $25,000, not the 1:1 match.

A committee composed of experts from the Department of Natural Resources reviews project proposals and makes recommendations to the Bicentennial Commission, which then gives final approval.

Becker said it is possible for the Heritage Trail to again apply for funding during the committee's next quarterly meeting.

He also said that a big stipulation of the application process comes from community involvement, for which Madison received high marks. He noted support from individual donors as well as the Madison Jefferson County Community Foundation.

Dick McCracken, chairman of the Heritage Trail Conservancy, said that the organization recently received positive feedback from a recent public survey.

About 90 percent of the 143 surveyed said the trail and conservancy were important to the community. In addition, 89 percent of those surveyed preferred a more primitive, nature trail instead of an urban park.

Greene said he hopes to keep developing the area for nature and educational purposes while continuing to maintain its appeal as a "significant green park."