Cultural Trail names executive director

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Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc. has hired its first executive director, Karen Haley, who was also the first director of the city’s Office of Sustainability.

Haley, 32, works closely with the team at the Central Indiana Community Foundation that’s in charge of finishing the 8-mile urban path, but her job is to maintain and promote portions of the trail that are complete.

By 2012, the Cultural Trail will be the driving force behind any number of events and initiatives, such as a bike-sharing program, Haley said. “Once it’s built, the fun is just beginning,” she said.

Indianapolis Cultural Trail Inc. is an independent not-for-profit organization. Its 11-member board of directors includes several of the trail’s leading patrons: Lori Efroymson, Myrta Pulliam, Margot Eccles and representatives of the Glick Family Foundation.

The trail is the brainchild of Central Indiana Community Foundation President Brian Payne, but he will not serve on the board. Haley said she’ll be meeting with Payne regularly throughout the trail’s completion.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” she said of taking over the project that Payne has shepherded for nine years.

The trail is being built over city right-of-ways with $62.5 million in private gifts and government grants, including a federal stimulus grant that’s spurring completion by 2012.

Haley, who has been on the job for 10 days, said her first task is to nail down maintenance expenses for completed sections. The trail has a $6 million maintenance endowment, but total expenses will likely require ongoing fundraising.

In the Office of Sustainability, which Indianapolis created in 2008, Haley oversaw activities like energy audits of city buildings and creating rain gardens. Her experience in government will no doubt come in handy when dealing with cracked brick pavers and summer landscaping.

Haley said she’s also looking forward to being the trail's main cheerleader. A native of Atlanta, her undergraduate degree from Georgia Tech was in business and marketing. “I do think it’s fun to dream about what the trail becomes.”

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