Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Construction on Ridge Run Trail to begins in spring

Trail will connect to the Pumpkinvine north of U.S. 20
By Dick Cook
After years of planning and fundraising, the Friends of the Middlebury Parks have signed a contract with Niblock Excavating and Asphalt to build the Ridge Run Trail system. The trail will connect That Pretty Place Bed and Breakfast, the Greencroft Middlebury Retirement Community, the Essenhaus campus and the Middlebury Schools campus with the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail.
Construction was to have started last fall, but due to Niblock’s heavy construction schedule for other projects, construction is now scheduled to begin in spring 2017, according to Jacob Hoeger, Niblock spokesperson. The new trail will have an asphalt surface, be 10-feet wide and connect to the Pumpkinvine just north of the tunnel under U.S. 20. The spurs to Greencroft Middlebury and the Essenhaus will be 10-feet wide, and the Greencroft spur will be packed stone.

The Ridge Run Trail project was made possible from the support of the members of the Friends of the Middlebury Parks organization, grants from the State of Indiana’s Place Based Investment Fund and the Community Foundation of Elkhart County, donations from the Corson Family Foundation, the Das Dutchman Essenhaus and Greencroft Middlebury; as well as contributions from over 100 individuals, families, civic clubs, family foundations and businesses.

Opening Day for Trails is April 8, 2017

This year marks the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy’s fifth annual Opening Day for Trails! On Saturday, April 8, 2017, people across the nation will kick off the spring trail season by hitting their favorite trails for a walk, run, ride or special event. Here are a few of the possibility on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, but you might also create an event with family and friends. The point is to get out on a trail and kick off the trail riding-and-walking season. All events are free.

11 a.m. – 2 p.m.     Bike Checks
Chain Reaction Bicycle Project will be at Abshire Park in Goshen to help make sure your bike is ready for the season. CRBP is a non-profit bicycle shop promoting bicycling in the Goshen community and increasing access to bicycles and repairs for people with low income and on work release.

11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.     3.5-mile Group Fitness Walk (round-trip)
Get your heart rate up and meet other walkers on this brisk walk between Abshire Park and County Road 28. The group will be led by Vivian Schmucker, local marathon walker. Meet at Abshire Park in Goshen.

2:15 p.m.     10-mile Group Bike and Dine (one-way, Goshen to Middlebury)
Join other cyclists on a ride to 41 Degrees North Restaurant and Bar in Middlebury. The ride is mostly on trail but does include 1.5 miles on county roads where the Pumpkinvine is not yet connected, as well as some local roads in Middlebury. Andrea Milne, local biking and walking advocate, will lead the group. Meet at Abshire Park in Goshen. Enjoy food and drinks with friends at the restaurant, and then meet up with Middlebury-to-Goshen riders at 4:30 p.m.

3* – 4:30 p.m.     Wildflower Hike 
Join John Smith, local amateur naturalist and native plant enthusiast, on a search for the first blooming native wildflowers of spring. The hike will begin at 3 p.m. at the intersection of the trail with County Road 33 and will explore the natural hardwood forest between trail mile markers 4.0 and 5.0. There are no parking spots at the County Road 33 trailhead. Two suggested ways to arrive include: 
·       Meet at 2:15 p.m. at Abshire Park in Goshen for a 5-mile group bike ride to the site. 
·       Meet at 2:45 p.m. at the County Road 35 parking lot on the Pumpkinvine Trail to carpool.

4:30 p.m.     12-mile Group Bike and Dine (one-way, Middlebury to Goshen)
Join other cyclists on a ride to Goshen Brewing Company. The ride is mostly on trail, but does include 1.5 miles on county roads where the Pumpkinvine is not yet connected, as well as some local roads in Goshen. Spencer and Brittany Short, owners of Pumpkinvine Cyclery, will lead the group. Meet at Pumpkinvine Cyclery, 413 N Main St, Middlebury. Enjoy food and drinks with friends at the restaurant.

Share how you plan to celebrate and explore trails on Opening Day with us on social media using #RTCOpeningDay!

For more information about Opening Day for Trails, visit

The amazing trail support from local public agencies

When I look back at the history of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, one feature that permeates that history is the positive partnership between the Friends of the Pumpkinvine and the four local public agencies (LPAs) that built and manage the trail now – Goshen Park and Recreation, Elkhart County Parks, Middlebury Parks and the Town of Shipshewana. They have been indispensable to the Pumpkinvine’s creation and success because they had the skills the Friends of the Pumpkinvine volunteers lacked.
The volunteers, who have made up the Friends of the Pumpkinvine board of directors since the early ‘90s had skills in writing, photography, public relations and fundraising, but none of us had a clue about how to build or run a park. In other words, we needed expertise beyond our set of skills.
Because of our skill deficit, we knew that we would need the help of the local public agencies where the abandoned Pumpkinvine corridor was located to make it into a linear park. At the beginning, we were primarily in contact with Goshen’s park director, Art Bleau and Elkhart County Parks director, Dan Seltenright, and we were thrilled to discover that both were open to the idea of turning the Pumpkinvine corridor into a linear park because that idea was already in their master plans.
But lines on maps and words on paper are hollow without follow through. The rails-to-trails idea for the Pumpkinvine corridor moved forward because Bleu and Seltenright saw its potential for success by working with the Friends of the Pumpkinvine. That was the beginning of a partnership between the Friends of the Pumpkinvine and the LPA leadership that has lasted over 25 years. When Rich Faye and Sheri Howland succeeded Bleau and Larry Neff and Diane Madison succeeded Seltenright, the collaboration continued. Roger Krider, Middlebury town manager, joined as a partner, as did his successors Marcel Coulomb, Lowell Miller and Mark Salee. In Shipshewana, former Friends of the Pumpkinvine board member, Norm Kauffmann, orchestrated their buy in to the rails-to-trails concept, as did his successors Dave Swartley, Bill Boyer, Mike Puro, Sheryl Kelly and Mike Sutter.
All these changes in leadership for the managing agencies were staggered, assuring continuity in the management of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. Yet in the past eight months, we had seen the departure of Madison, Salee and Howland, and, I learned as I was writing this column in mid-February, that Mike Sutter has announced that he is retiring in June 2017. So, within the space of one year we will have new leadership in all four LPAs that manage the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail.
Will so much change in the leadership of these LPAs be positive or negative for the Pumpkinvine? If the past in any indicator of the future, I’m optimistic the new leaders (see page 4) will continue the tradition of being excellent stewards of the Pumpkinvine. And I’m grateful for the care and vision the departing leaders – Madison, Salee, Howland and Sutter -- have shown the trail. They have been outstanding trail managers, advocates and partners. -- John Yoder

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Time to re-enroll in Kroger rewards program

As many of you know, The Kroger Community Rewards Program donates a percentage of each gas or grocery purchase to the Friends of the Pumpkinvine when Kroger shoppers pick the Friends of the Pumpkinvine from a list of eligible organizations on the Kroger website. This year, through October 2016, the Friends of the Pumpkinvine had received $563.59 from the Kroger Rewards Program from the purchases of 34 households.

However, participants must renew their participation in the program each year, and that renewal is very easy. Once you log in to your Kroger account at, you will see a button “Re-enroll now.” Click on it and the re-enroll is done.

If you would like to enroll for the first time, follow these instructions:

·         Go online to Be sure to have your Kroger Plus card handy and register your card with your organization after you sign up. (If you do not have a Kroger Plus card, they are available at the customer service desk at any Kroger.)
·         Click on Sign In/Register in upper right hand corner
·         Click on "Register" if you don't have a Kroger account
·         Click on "Create an account" just below "Forgot your password?"
·         If you are a new online customer, click on SIGN UP TODAY in the ‘New Customer?’ box.
·         That will take you to the "Kroger Community Reward" page.
·         Click on "Enroll Now" link
·         Sign up for a Kroger Rewards Account by entering your zip code, clicking on your favorite store, entering your email address and creating a password and agreeing to the terms and conditions
·         You will then get a message to check your email inbox and click on the link within the body of the email.
·         Click on My Account and use your email address and password to proceed to the next step.
·         Click on Edit Kroger Community Rewards information and input your Kroger Plus card number.
·         Update or confirm your information.
·         Enter NPO number (40758) or Friends of the Pumpkinvine, and select Friends of the Pumpkinvine from the list and click on confirm.
·         To verify you are enrolled correctly, you will see your organization’s name on the right side of your information page.
·         Remember, purchases will not count for the Friends of the Pumpkinvine until after you register your card.
·         If you use your phone number at the cash register instead of the Plus card, call 800-576-4377 and select option 4 to get your Kroger Plus card number.
·         Members must swipe their registered Kroger Plus card or use the phone number that is related to their registered Kroger Plus card when shopping for each purchase to count.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is part of regional active-transportation plan

 At the Friends of the Pumpkinvine annual dinner in April, James Turnwald, the executive director of the Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG), outlined how the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail fits into the recent trend in transportation planning called “active transportation.”  He defined active transportation as “human-powered transportation that engages people in healthy physical activity while they travel from place to place. Additionally, active transportation is necessary to support public transit to allow for more accessibility within and among communities.”

            The forms active transportation takes – biking and walking to work, for example – are not new per se, but what is new is that planners are emphasizing them much more than they have done in the past as viable transportation options. For example, MACOG’s vision, as outlined in the document Transportation Planning 2040, states: “In 2040, the Michiana Region will boast an interconnected, safe, and accessible transportation network where all residents and visitors can travel from place to place without use of motorized vehicles. Through infrastructure, programs, and policies, walking and bicycling will become a common, enjoyable, and viable transportation and recreation choice that will lead to healthier lives, safer communities, and economically and socially vibrant region.”

That last phrase, “socially vibrant region,” is a key element of the plan. Active transportation isn’t just about saving money on gas, cleaner air and less congestion on our streets and highways. It is a means for achieving a more livable and desirable community, a place where people want to move to. The plan’s “quality of place” goal, Turnwald said, is to “create economically and socially vibrant communities, through the use of active transportation networks that attract resident to live, work and play in our region.”

            I’ve been to numerous public meeting in the past few years where speakers emphasized the fact that we are in competition with other communities to attract and keep talented young people, and the way to do that isn’t necessarily going to be with a certain type of job. More and more young people look first for an attractive place to live -- one with good schools, hospitals and one where it is easy to walk and bike -- then they look for a job in that area. Consequently, if communities want to attract and retain young people, they need to build the type of community young people want, and that includes being a place that promote walking and biking

            This emphasis on active transportation and how it helps create vibrant communities is a ringing endorsement of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail -- a prime example of active transportation that promotes the quality of life in our region. In addition, I would like to think that it bodes well for the future of the trail, because the more we understand how important a well-maintained trail is to the quality of life in our area, the more likely it is that people will support the Friends of the Pumpkinvine when our emphasis shifts from closing the gaps in the trail to trail maintenance, the least glamorous part of a trail project. -- John Yoder

Sunday, December 25, 2016

2016 Blog statistic

I notice from the statistics that Google keeps about this blog that the Friends of the Pumpkinvine have posted only 11 blogs this year, down from

Flashbacks in the Trail Talk Friends of the Pumpkinvine newsletter

Four years ago I started doing a regular feature in the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Trail Talk newsletter called "Flashbacks," in which I highlighted something in the history of the Pumpkinvine (trail or Friends) organization that was significant five, 10, 15 and 20 years ago. The purpose of this feature was to remind people of the effort it takes to produce something like the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail.  There were multiple law suits, lots of uncertainty, generous donations and times of celebration along the say. I thought that knowing some of that history might make people more patient when the see the slow progress on closing the gaps in the trail.

I enjoyed digging into the history through old newsletters and timelines. How easy it is to forget the people and critical events that brought us to today.

However, as I was thinking about flashbacks for the coming March 2017 issue, it occurred to me that there is a slight flaw in my method going forward. If I were to continue to do flashback at five-year intervals going back 20 years, then in the fifth year of that cycle, I would start repeating events from previous flashbacks. In other words, the 10-year flashback of 2017, i.e., 2007, is the same as the five -year flashback of  2012, i.e., 2007, and so on.

Since I started the flashbacks four years ago, I have one more year to do them before I start repeating the events, but the writing is on the wall, as they say.   I will need to find another method for giving people a sense of trail history or decide that it isn't important to know that much history.