INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana has awarded nearly $30 million to communities and nonprofit groups for construction of 70 miles of new trails Gov. Eric Holcomb says will boost local tourism and economic development.

The $29.6 million in funding announced Thursday for 18 communities and non-profit organizations is the part of the second round of Holcomb's Next Level Trails program. More than $24 million for 17 other trail projects totaling 42 miles were announced in May 2019 in the first funding round.

Whitcomb said trails improve the quality of life in the state and are “a valuable tool for economic and tourism development." He said Hoosiers have frequented trails during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Trails have been an important resource for Hoosiers’ physical and mental well-being throughout the pandemic,” he said.

Dan Bortner, the director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said the agency is excited to partner with local governments and nonprofits on the trails projects. He said Hoosiers visited the trails and parks “ in unprecedented numbers" during the past year.

“Demand for trails has never been higher," Bortner said.

The newly awarded grants include 10 regional projects and eight local projects. The deadline for applications for the third round of Next Level Trails funding is Dec. 1.