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Indy's Historic Park & Boulevard System

The Indianapolis Greenways System that is in place today is the result of a series of planning efforts that have allowed the system to develop and evolve. These efforts have occurred for over a hundred years and each individual planning effort has left a tangible mark on the city, one that continues to be built upon today. The system reflects the noticeable traits of all of those planning efforts and styles, but more importantly, it reflects the vision established by residents over the years.


Greenways Today

  

View the Indy Parks Greenway System Flipbook

In case of Emergency Dial 911

  • Report unsafe conditions to the Indianapolis Mayor’s Action Center at (317) 327-4622 or download the Request Indy mobile application.
  • Report non-emergency safety concerns to Indianapolis Metropolitan Police / Park Rangers (317) 327-3811
  • For general question call Indy Parks at
    (317) 327-PARK (7275)

 Trail Etiquette

  • Always be aware of your speed and trail conditions.
  • Be considerate of all trail users, especially small children and senior citizens.
  • Communicate before passing others.
  • Share the trail courteously.
  • Respect private property.
  • In-Line skates and bikers yield to pedestrians. Bicyclists yield to all other trail users.
  • Yield to trail users when entering the path.
  • Keep to the right and pass on the left.
  • Keep pets on short leashes and remove pet waste.
  • Dispose of trash properly.
  • Wait for a clear walk signal before crossing streets. Look both ways and cross carefully.
  • Always give vehicles extra time and room to stop and see you.
  • Do not disturb animals or vegetation.

​Quick Links:

Central Canal Towpath

Eagle Creek Greenway

Fall Creek Greenway

Little Buck Creek Greenway

Monon Trail

Pennsy Trail

Pleasant Run Greenway

Pogues Run Greenway

White River Greenway

 

The City Beautiful

During the last half of the 1800s, overcrowding and pollution led to the belief that American cities were unhealthy environments. A movement known as City Beautiful emerged at the turn of the century as a remedy to these urban problems.
The City Beautiful movement was comprised of a range of beautification efforts including park and boulevard planning, the establishment of civic centers, tree and flower plating, factory smoke pollution regulation, and billboard and trash removal.
In Indianapolis, as in numerous other American cities during this time, various civic and business leaders recognized the need for a concerted effort toward city clean-ups and park establishment.

 

A Plan for Indy 

In 1908, the City’s Park Board enlisted the help of George Kessler. As one of the preeminent landscape architects in the nation, Kessler was a leading figure of the City Beautiful movement.
Kessler spent a year researching Indianapolis’ parks, waterways, and transportation system. In 1909, he submitted his Indianapolis Parka and Boulevard Plan (known today as the Kessler Plan) as part of the Board of Park Commissioner’s Annual Report. Kessler identified the key natural features of the city and built his plan around these features. To encompass all areas of the city, Kessler identified six waterways as the cornerstone of his plan. Along these waterways would be landscaped boulevards linking the park system together.
These boulevards served a practical purpose as well, providing flood control and routes into the downtown business district. In addition, ornamental bridges would connect portions of the boulevards and serve as landmarks for the city.
After World War I, Kessler expanded his plan in response to city growth. He added a northern boulevard that was later named Kessler Boulevard in his honor. After Kessler’s death in 1923, landscape architect Lawrence Sheridan extended the plan further to include all of Marion County.
  1908 first plan rotated.JPG

​George E. Kessler

Kessler, born in Germany in 1862, moved to the United States at the age of three. He returned to Germany as a young man for instruction in botany, forestry, landscape design, civic design, and civil engineering. In 1882, at the age of 20, Kessler returned to the United States to begin his career. He first gained national attention with the development of a park and boulevard system for Kansas City, Missouri, in 1893. Eleven years later, he provided the landscape design for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, and later adopted St. Louis as his home city. During his 40-year career, Kessler prepared plans for 26 communities, 26 park and boulevard systems, 49 parks, 46 estates & residences, and 26 schools. His projects can be found in 100 cities in 23 states, Mexico, and China.

 

George Kessler.jpg

Photo courtesy of Kansas City, MO Parks, Recreation and Boulevard Archives