The Whitewater Canal Trail Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that has been working on the dream of a trail along the Whitewater Canal to “foster activities along the Whitewater Canal corridor that focus on historical preservation and interpretation, outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation while promoting sustainable development and improved quality of life in connected communities.”
A development plan began almost 30 years ago in 1992 with a vision of an eight-mile trail from Metamora to Brookville and eventually, beyond. It was in 2004, though, when the dream started to become a reality; Whitewater Canal Trail president Mick Wilz, received a letter from the Franklin County Convention, Recreation and Visitors commission on Sept. 14, stating, “we approve of the Whitewater Valley Canal Trail project that was proposed to our committee on July 27, 2004.”
Fast forward 15 years, and the momentum for the trail project is growing, and the non-profit will be soon doubling the number of trails. Currently Yellow Bank, Metamora and the Billie Jean Jobe trails are opened and maintained and the Feeder Dam Trail (Metamora to Laurel) is in the process. The first two miles are already opened and being maintained.
As one can imagine, maintenance for the trail can be extensive and most recently has included the building of four bridges on the Feeder Dam Trail that connect US Hwy. 52 to the Feeder Dam near Laurel. Whitewater Trail volunteers Don Vonder Meulen, Tony Montgomery, Eric Hawkins, Pat Murphy and Daryl Strohmier, took on the role of Whitewater Trail “bridge builders” and have been working to build, or in one case, replace an old bridge along the trail. The bridge that was replaced was due to the location at the Feeder Dam. Now, the new bridge is located at the Feeder Dam parking, allowing access to the river and the Feeder Dam.
“The other bridges were built where none have been before,” explained Vonder Meulen. “One to cross a creek and two that cross the canal. The bridges that cross the canal are dedicated to the deceased wives of the two volunteers who helped build them.”
The “bridge builders” have also built new decks on two former railroad structures that cross Yellow Bank Creek and Goose Creek and can be easily seen from US Hwy. 52.
The bridges are built as needed and when there are funds to do so. Vonder Meulen explained that most of the plans he has drawn for the trail are based on bridge construction they have seen on other trails. Once drawn up, Vonder Meulen has worked with Gillman's, who have been helpful in supplying and delivering the materials to the site. One more bridge is planned across the canal near the Opry Barn located in Metamora.
“I believe that is the last one we will need to build until we begin construction on the Yellow Bank to Brookville section of the trail,” Vonder Meulen said. “One of the bridges in that section, I believe is close to 100 feet long. I am looking forward to it.”
Whitewater Canal Trail board member and bridge builder Montgomery has enjoyed riding bicycles for roughly 60 years and reflected on his passion when it comes to the trail.
“About 10 years ago, I rode on the Little Miami Bike Trail on the east side of Cincinnati,” Montgomery began. “The experience of riding on a good trail without worry about vehicle traffic was an aha moment. Since then, I've had two opportunities to ride a bike and hike in Switzerland. Seeing how the country's emphasis on infrastructure for active 
transportation encourages people to walk and ride bikes, I want to see the leadership in Indiana and the Tri-state area actually put active transportation at a higher priority.”
Although all the bridge builders have thoroughly enjoyed their work on the trails, both Montgomery and Vonder Meulen shared a favorite memory, the grand opening of the Feeder Dam South Trail in Oct. 2019.
“By far my best memory is the grand opening we celebrated last fall for our first two-miles of the trail connecting U.S. Hwy. 52 to Dam Rd,” said Vonder Meulen. “It is a blessing when you find yourself part of a team of people who come together and are successful at doing good things for the community.”
Funds are still needed as the non-profit continues to 
expand the trails and donations can be made through the website, www.white watercanaltrail.com. Trail work is generally done on the third Saturday of each month and an extra pair of hands is also welcomed.
“Take a walk on the trail,” Vonder Meulen encouraged. “WE love seeing cars in the parking lots. Also, please check out our Facebook and website postings. We usually plan at least one workday per month, and you are welcome to join us. If you would like to become more deeply involved just let us know, I am sure we can work something out.”