Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

FAQs about the new Pumpkinvine section between CR 33 and CR 20

Q: Is this section finished?

A: No, it is rideable, but not finished. Additions will include privacy fencing near the overpass and at CR 33, a donor- recognition area, a second entrance-exit to County Road 20 and signage.

Q: Why is there a curb along part of the trail just north of the overpass?
A: The curb is designed to keep gravel from the lane just south of the trail from coming onto the asphalt trail. This lane gives the landowners access to the land they own south of the trail.

Q: Why is there an overpass in this section?
A: The overpass is the result of negotiations between the Friends of the Pumpkinvine, Elkhart County Parks and the adjacent landowners who had land and buildings on both sides of the trail. The Friends and Elkhart County Parks did not want the trail to leave the old Pumpkinvine corridor in this area because it would have put the trail into wetlands. But the landowners were reluctant to divide their property with the trail.  The Friends of the Pumpkinvine and Elkhart County Parks promised an overpass if the landowners permitted the trail to stay on the old Pumpkinvine corridor and avoid the wetlands in this section.

Q: Why are there concrete sections on the trail?
A: One concrete section along County Road 20 is for a driveway and a possible future driveway. The others represent easements that allow the landowner with land on both sides of the corridor to cross the corridor with heavy equipment now or in the future. These concrete easements are consistent with other easements along the Pumpkinvine.

Q: Who built the overpass?
A: Custom Manufacturing, Clinton, Wisconsin.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Walkers benefit from the new trail section, too

A note from Friends of the Pumpkinvine board member Vivian Schmucker, our most faithful walker and advocate, about her first walk on the new section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between CR 33 and CR 20 reminded me that this new section will be a welcome addition to the trail for walkers as much as it is for bikers.

Even before it was officially open, I saw area residents walking down the trail enjoying its beauty and safety.  But Vivian walks with a greater purpose: she is training. She participates in the Maple City Walk's marathon walk in the fall that uses the Pumpkinvine as it's main venue, and in the past, walkers needed to use county roads for 3.4 miles (1.7 miles each way) of the 26.2-mile marathon course. Now the new section of the trail has eliminated two miles of that on-road route, making for a much safer walk.

Comment from Vivian:  "Since the distance between CR 33 and CR 35 by county roads is 1.7 miles, the marathoners previously had to walk 3.4 miles on the county roads for the round trip to Middlebury. Now that the new section of the trail is open, the marathoners will only have to walk .7 miles on county roads between CR 20 and CR 35 for a total of 1.4 miles for the round trip."  

Those of us who are primarily cyclists have a tendency to forget that walkers make up over 40 percent of trail users and that a new section of trail that takes walkers off the county roads improves their safety significantly, too.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Indiana legislature passed two laws, effective July 1, 2019, that impact cyclists in Indiana.

The first is a three-foot passing law that says when a motorist is overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, the motorist must “allow at least three (3) feet of clearance between their vehicle and the bicycle and not return the vehicle to the vehicle's original lane of travel until the vehicle is safely clear of the bicycle.” A vehicle may pass a bicycle or electric bicycle in a no passing zone if it is safe to do so, complying with current law.”
The second law creates three classes of E bikes. The Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee made up of the four agencies that managing the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail will be discussing how this law applies to the Pumpkinvine at its July meeting.
Class 1 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the operator is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance to the operator when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of twenty (20) miles per hour.
Class 2 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with an electric motor that may be used exclusively to propel the electric bicycle and ceases or is unable to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of twenty (20) miler per hour
Class 3 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipment with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the operator is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance once the electric bicycle reaches a speed of twenty-eight (28) miles per hour.
The operator of an electric bicycle has all the rights and responsibilities as the rider of a non-electric bicycle.
Unless specifically stated by statute, ordinance, etc. Class 1 and 2 electric bicycles may be operated on any bicycle path or multi -purpose path where bicycles are permitted.
A class 3 electric bicycle might not be permitted on bicycle paths or multi use paths and the operator should look toward local ordinances for guidance. (Most trail managing agencies prohibit class 3 electric bicycles.)
A person less than 15 years of age may not operate a class 3 bicycle. A person less than 15 years may ride as a passenger if the bicycle accommodates more than one rider. Anyone who rides or operates a class 3 bicycle that is less than 18 years of age must wear an approved helmet.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

A smooth ride -- thanks to Bob Carrico

In two day, June 15, 2019, a thousand riders will participate in the 20th Pumpkinvine Bike Ride. They will enjoy seeing the new colts in the fields, the beauty of the Indiana countryside and at some point in their ride, experience the shade and off-road safety of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. As they ride the Pumpkinvine, what they may overlook, is the work done to patch the cracks in the trail by Bob Carrico and his crew that results in a far smoother ride than would be the case if they hit a crack multiple time every mile.

Parts of the Pumpkinvine's asphalt surface are now 20 years old, with the majority of the asphalt being 10 years old. In that time, freezing and thawing have created cracks in the surface of the asphalt that give bike riders a jolt. (The bumps caused by tree roots going under the trail are another issue.) Filling these cracks in a way that makes them smooth is labor intensive, and the local park departments that manage the trail do not have the staff to fill them.

Enter Bob Carrico, the Trail Operations Manager for the Friends of the Pumpkinvine. He has devised a system for filling the cracks that is so good most riders will never know they just passed over a filled crack. In the past month, Bob and his crew have filled every crack in the 16.5 miles of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail from Abshire Park in Goshen to County Road 850W in Shipshewana.

Every time I ride the Pumpkinvine I'm aware of this difference this crack sealing makes, i.e., how smooth they are. Unlike the patches I encounter on the road, which more often than not, substitute create a bump up where there was a bump down, Bob's patches are smooth, the work of a cyclist who knows how much cyclists dislike bumps that are even a quarter inch high. This kind of patching takes time and patience, something Bob's crew has in abundance.

So, anyone who rides the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride this weekend or locals who ride it year round, when you encounter a sealed crack, remember the effort and attention to detail that went into making your ride a lot smoother because of the dedication and skill of Bob Carrico.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Closing a Pumpkinvine Nature Trail gap

It won't be long before we will see the closing of a one-mile gap in the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between County Road 33 and County Road 20. This project has been in process for over five years and involved negotiating with five landowners because the Friends of the Pumpkinvine owned only five percent of the Pumpkinvine corridor in this section. 

This part of the Pumpkinvine corridor was conveyed to the railroad back in the 1890s as an easement, and that easement went away when the railroad abandoned rail service in 1982, i.e., the land reverted to the adjacent landowners. So, to put a trail through this section on the old corridor meant getting the cooperation of these five adjacent landowners who now owned the Pumpkinvine corridor.

Our thinking all along was that the most persuasive argument for the trail would be for these landowners to see and use the Pumpkinvine themselves as it approached their area. So, we waited over 20 years for that to happen before we approached them. All were Amish and trail users and by that time they saw the value of the trail for the Amish community. They like the Pumpkinvine, but arriving at a route through this section involved missing wetlands and figuring out a way to accommodate a landowner whose land was divided by the trail.

The trail through this section will eliminate hills on County Road 33 and County Road 20, and the rough surface of County Road 20, which seems to get worse by the day. It also has very fast traffic. Now the challenge is to close the gap between County Road 20 and County Road 35.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mike Cloud & Penn Central

When I was reporting to the Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee recently about a rails-to-trails conference I attended, I was reminded of the first national rails-to-trails conference I attended in Baltimore in 1991. It was a fateful conference because it put our new Friends group in touch with the right person at Penn Central, the owner of the Pumpkinvine corridor.

The conference had a workshop session called something like "Meet the railroad representatives," and naturally I wanted to attend. At the time, we had made contact by letter with Penn Central Corp., the owner of the  Pumpkinvine corridor, but the person we were in contact with in the Cincinnati, Ohio office didn't seem all that interested in our small group of trail advocates. I went to the meeting hoping that personal contact would make a difference.

I went to the meeting room and looked around for someone from Penn Central. I don't remember how I found their area, but when I did, I introduced myself to Mike Cloud, the real-estate representative of Penn Central, and immediately asked him if they were interested in selling the Pumpkinvine. He said they were, and I was thrilled. We exchanged phone number (this was before email), and I invited him to come to Elkhart County to see the Pumpkinvine corridor, which he did sometime later. I took him around the county to look at the all the places the Pumpkinvine crossed a county road, and he agreed that it would make a fine trail, although how he could tell that from the country roads it crossed is a mystery. In the end, it didn't matter because how we had a viable contact.

It took over a year for us to negotiate a selling price of $100,000 -- all the result of that personal meeting in Baltimore. Mike Cloud came to Goshen for the closing. We handed him a check for $100,000 in a little ceremony at Schrock pavilion in Shanklin Park in December 1993.

Shaded and unshaded areas of the Pumpkinvine

One of the obvious features of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is that it has both shaded and unshaded areas. The shaded areas are where the trail is on the former railroad corridor. The railroad was built on a strip of land that was either 66 or 80 feet wide, and the railroad bed was only 10 feet wide in the center of that larger strip. Over the 100 plus years since the railroad was built, trees grew up in the areas beside the trail, resulting in the shaded areas we enjoy today.

The unshaded areas are the result of the need to leave the old  Pumpkinvine corridor and go around various farm fields because the railroad's title to the corridor was just an easement that reverted to the adjacent landowner when the railroad abandoned the line or because the corridor split a farm field and the Friends of the Pumpkinvine decided to allow the farmer to square off their field.

The trees along the Pumpkinvine provide us with shade from summer's sun and a windbreak all year round.

Riding the trail recently on a very windy day, I noticed a major difference in the degree to which the shaded areas blocked the wind, something I hadn't thought about before. In areas where the trail was shaded only by the trees on the corridor, I noticed a modest decrease in the wind. But where the trail went through a forest, the protection of that mass of trees was much greater. The 20 mph wind in those areas was hardly noticeable. I wish we had more of them.