Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Monday, August 6, 2018

Two weeks left?

The summer is wrapping up as GCS begins the 2018-19 school year on Wednesday, and with it so wraps up my summer internship. There are only two weeks left and yet it feels like there is so much left to do!

I still have to make significant edits to my long term management plan before submitting it to the different parks departments, I want to begin composing a Spanish translation for the Friends website, I need to write an official thesis proposal for my school (Amherst College), I need to contact the parties who funded my summer here and thank them for making this opportunity economically feasible, I need to prepare a final presentation on my work for the Friends' board, and I need to take time to stop and smell the roses.

Obviously not the multiflora roses though because those are invasive.

This summer has been so full of new experiences -- namely living at home for the first time since I left for college in 2015. I've done a lot of work from The Brew, JoJo's Pretzels, and my bed (from which I write this post right now). I am doing work for a job that I never would have imagined myself having (and even less, enjoying) in places that I grew up in. I applied to colleges in these places, imagining myself majoring in Flute Performance, maybe a minor in Spanish or Political Science, definitely playing in my college marching band.

I find myself back in my favorite spots for getting work done going into my senior year of college as an Environmental Studies major who plays on the rugby team and has not touched her flute in over a year.

I've spent a lot of time this summer thinking about how different I am from who I thought I would be, but living in Goshen again has made me realize that some things never change. I still love a straight forward original pretzel, prefer maple frosted cinnamon rolls over vanilla, and will fall asleep working in my bed 100% of the time.

The beauty of interning for the Friends this summer has been getting to watch this new version of myself interact with places and people of my past. So many things can change, but I can always count on the tornado siren going off at 2pm on Thursday. I know every person I walk/bike/run past will smile, nod, and say hi no matter what.  And I know that this place will always feel like home.

So this post is less about the specifics of my work on the trail this summer (in short: hot, mosquitos, poison ivy, meetings, technology, writing, research, emails), and instead it is about how much I appreciate having the opportunity to be here for one last summer and give back to the community that has given me so much.

This feels like a farewell post, but as the title of this blog post suggests -- I still have two more weeks! So keep your eyes peeled for a farewell post that is much less about me, and much more about the final products of all the work I've done this summer and where I see nature management headed for the Pumpkinvine in the years to come!

--Isabela Torres

Monday, July 2, 2018

Midsummer Progress Report

So what have I been up to this summer?

I've been working on creating a management plan to help improve the quality of the nature bordering the trail. This entails sitting on my computer for hours creating maps of the different regions along the trail that have the best chance of not being overrun by invasive species (specifically -1, 4.5, 8.5 and 12.5). Here is a draft of my map of the region along mile marker 12.5:

It's definitely a rough first draft, but the purpose of it is to show where different invasive species exist within Pumpkinvine trail property so that the parks departments and volunteers know where to focus their energy for removal in the coming years.

In the next week or two I hope to finalize the first draft of my management plan, and then get out along the trail and start implementing it. This will hopefully give me a chance to figure out what elements I may need to add or alter in future drafts.

If you're interested in helping out with species removal this summer, looking for a volunteer opportunity for a group either now or in the future, please feel free to reach out to us in the comments (or email as we'd love to get you involved -- the more the merrier!

Questions? Comments? Ideas? I'd love to hear from people who are interested in improving the quality of natural areas and/or have areas along the trail that are near and dear to their hearts!

-Isabela Torres

Friday, June 1, 2018

On Poison Ivy and Culverts

Poison ivy and culverts have nothing in common except that I had to deal with both in the last two weeks.

I'll answer your first question right away: a culvert is a structure used for crossings generally under 12 feet instead of constructing a bridge. In practice a culvert basically looks like a huge pipe that allows running water to continue along it's natural path. The Pumpkinvine has one such culvert in Shipshewana, for crossing Mather's Ditch, which collapsed a few weeks ago after years of erosion caused by heavy rain.

I have gotten poison ivy twice in the past two weeks and I am scratching the rash on my arms as I type this post. Here's the thing though, poison ivy is meant to be here. Culverts are not.

Poison ivy is a nuisance to humans, and it is generally acceptable to remove this plant despite it's role in the local ecosystem as bird food. Culverts are not naturally occurring, but people utilize them to make nature more human friendly.

So if the Pumpkinvine is a nature trail, what is the efficacy of manipulating the environment in the name of human enjoyment and not ecosystem restoration?

I don't have a good answer for this. The town of Shipshewana had to spend around $12,000 to install a new, more resilient, culvert. We changed nature to better suit our needs.

So shouldn't we reciprocate?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Interning Along the Pumpkinvine

Hey Pumpkinvine Blog!

My name is Isabela Torres, and I am interning with the Friends of the Pumpkinvine this summer. I was raised in Goshen and graduated from GHS in 2015. I've been attending Amherst College in Massachusetts where I've majored in Environmental Studies. I'm excited to get to learn about the ecology of Northern Indiana and the opportunity to use that knowledge to contribute to the management and future success of the nature surrounding the trail.

I will be doing a variety of things with the Friends this summer, and you will probably see me out on the trail, posting on the Facebook page, or volunteering at the annual bike ride (for which registration is still open!). I'm super interested in learning more about the history and politics of the trail, along with how management styles have changed as the parks departments became more involved over time.

In summary: I'll try to contribute to this blog consistently throughout the summer for anyone interested in seeing what I've been up to. Thanks for reading!

--Isabela Torres

PS. Here is what I look like so if you see me digging up plants along the trail you'll know I'm supposed to be doing that -- if you see me around in Goshen (or at Los Primos where I work in the evenings) feel free to stop me and say hi!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

2018 Annual Friends of the Pumpkinivine dinner

On April 24, we had our 17th annual Friends of the Pumpkinvine dinner at the Crystal Ballroom of the Lerner Theater in downtown Elkhart. It was the first time we had the dinner in Elkhart. Previously, we had rotated the dinners between Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana.

Around 280 attended the dinner -- about what we've had in previous years. I gave a talk about how patience is rewarded, if certain conditions exist,  citing examples of how patience our supporters have been when there were years when there was little or no progress in building the trail, and how the Community Foundation of Elkhart County was patience in requiring an onsite visit for their $300,000 grant. Both are examples of how they trusted us and we trusted them.

I also mentioned that the Amish churches have become a financial supporters through a fundraising letter we sent to them.  A less obvious way they have become supporters is by the inclusion of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail in the 2017 edition of the Indiana Amish Directory..

A highlight of the evening was the poetry reading of the poem that won first prize in our first annual poetry contest. Matt Lind read his poem "Awe" and gave the poem some context. I've asked Matt to write down the remarks he made for this blog, but I haven't seen them yet. I found them very helpful in understanding the poem.  Here's Matts poem:

By Matthew Lind

Each day it waits, patiently.
I know it’s there
And even that
Fills me with anticipation.
It is a place where freedom lies
And comfort, perhaps
And awe…

Aren’t the Rocky Mountains “awe”?
Maybe Precipice Trail,
Red River Gorge,
Angel’s Landing,
The Highland Trail…

But the Pumpkinvine?
Let me explain.
It is awe, 
Brought down to earth;

 A miracle that forms 
This wondrous NOW.
It does not shout;
It whispers:
“Rider, awake!
Walker, awake!”

There is a place
For majestic mountain peaks,
For the overload of senses
That completely humbles.

Yet here this is:
Of forest and field,
Of understated beauty,
Of awe laid low.
Our back yard
Where we live,
Yet animated by the same
Dizzying atoms
That form Yosemite’s vistas. 

It does not shout.
It whispers:
“Come, walk my path.

Friday, March 23, 2018

The floods of February 2018 and the Pumpkinvine

Elkhart County experience record floods from the Elkhart River and other bodies of water in February, but the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail excaped major damage. Between County Road 35 and County Road 37 there is a low spot that was covered for a distance of over 150 feet, but in a few days, that water receded. That's at least the second time that area has been under water.

However, when compared to the damage done to the Abshire Trail and the trail around Fidler Pond, that area of standing water was an inconvenience, not a disaster. As I rode the Pumpkinvine recently, I was thankful that the railroad engineers of 1890s who built the Pumpkinvine had the wisdom to elevate the railroad bed so that it would not be flooded. The section of the Pumpkinvine pictured here is one part of the trail that is not on the old railroad corridor.

Friday, March 16, 2018

A printed newsletter

Every time a new physically printed Friends of the Pumpkinvine newsletter comes out, I ask myself if printing a hard copy of a newsletter is still a good idea? It is expensive to design, print and mail, and I see that other trail groups send out electronic newsletters. I know of only one other trail in Indiana that prints a newsletter -- the B&O Trail in Brownsburg, Ind.

Then today something happened that underscored the difference between print and electroic newsletters. I wrote a letter to the new president of Goshen College, Rebecca Stoltzfus, and her husband, Kevin Miller, inviting them to the Friends of the Pumpkinvine annual dinner April 24. Since I did not know their address and I didn't want to send a letter to both of them to the college, I decided to drop it off in person at their house, a location I knew. I thought it would be helpful to put a newsletter and brochure with the letter, also. I wrote the letter, picked up the extra newsletters at the Goshen College printing office and then drove to their house. Kevin was home, and I gave him the materials and talked with him briefly about the dinner and the Pumpkinvine, which he has not seen. However, I discovered that his daughter is dating someone who works at Pumpkinvine Cyclery, and he naturally had heard about the trail, so we had a connection of sorts

How much better it was for me to be able to give him a printed brochure and newsletter, rather than refer him to a website with basically the same information? (I had links to our website in the letter, also.) I think it made for a much more cordual and helpful exchange, compared to telling him to go to a website, which I would have needed to do without a brochure and newsletter in hand.

So, I'm still a proponent of a physical newsletter that I can hand to people. I'll bring the extra copies of the last three newsletters to the annual dinner, with the hope that new supporters will pick them up.