Westfield homeowner loses land for expansion of Monon Trail

Westfield is extending the Monon Trail and Wheeler Road for a new sports park..

The games are underway at Grand Park, Westfield's new 360-acre, championship-level sports campus.

But it's 12 feet of one homeowner's driveway that's landed the state in court.

The state wants to connect the new complex to the Monon Trail. When Jeremiah Emerich refused to sell a portion of his land, the state took it through eminent domain.

The property in question is at the entrance of the park at the intersection of Tomlinson and Wheeler Road, near 186th Street.

Country living is all Emerich knows.

"I'm an old farmer," he told Eyewitness News.

The quiet land where he played as a farm boy, he now owns.

"This was a pig and cow farm when I was a kid. Where the garden thing is, used to be the barn and silo," Emerich said pointing out landmarks on the property.

But life on this slice of Tomlinson Road in Westfield has dramatically changed.

"They're putting the Monon Trail across my driveway. By putting the Monon Trail across the 100 yards of my front yard, it traps my property totally," Emerich explained.

The new road construction was prompted by the $45 million Grand Park Sports Complex Project.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is taking 12 feet of Emerich's property to create what it calls "a multi-use path."

He's already lost trees. Next, a portion of his driveway at risk to eminent domain.

"I don't think that it's exactly fair that they take my front yard," he said in protest.

INDOT took Emerich to court to condemn the part of the land it wants as part of the state's US 31 road project.

The state is extending nearby Wheeler Road and argues the trail should be included.

"Jumped up and down and said 'We have to have his front yard immediately,' to connect the road and put the Monon Trail there," Emerich said, describing a recent court hearing in which he lost his eminent domain appeal.

The landscape of the farm field is now littered with construction debris in the front and baseball and softball diamonds out back. Even his neighbor next door moved out, leaving him the last standing in a field of dreams.

"If I sell, isn't that just giving them what they want?," he questioned, determined to keep the land his family has owned for decades.

INDOT refused to talk about this specific case of eminent domain, calling it a legal matter. But Emerich says it's very likely within the next 10 days, the Monon Trail will open up across his very driveway.

The two sides will now have to determine how much he should be paid for his property.