Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Monday, December 26, 2011

Post about trail on Kalamazoo Seasons blog

It's nice to see other area blogs advertising the Pumpkinvine.  This link is from the Kalamazoo Seasons blog. Kalamazoo Seasons

Monday, December 12, 2011

Trail photos on Google Earth

We’d like to see more Pumpkinvine Nature Trail photos on Google Earth. (There are a few now.) If you have some, start by uploading them to Panoramiotells you how to upload photos: . From there, check the help listing on the left under “Getting your photos into Google Earth”  --   

Note that they will not accept photos that show people’s faces.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Letter to Goshen News on trails

This link is to a letter to the editor of the Goshen News, Dec. 7, 2011. It points up the extensive trail system that Goshen and Elkhart County is developing, including the Pumpkinvine. It is particularly gratifying to see that the letter came from a senior citizen and a resident of Elkhart. Here's the link: Goshen-Elkhart County trails are a joy

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Who will maintain the Pumpkinvine?

The following is a version of the article I wrote for the March 2011 Pumpkinvine Trail Talk regarding trail maintenance. It is just as relevant today.

 Even though the creation of the trail has taken 20 years from purchase to settling legal issues to funding the development, we have always known that managing it once it is done would be as large a challenge as creating it. Management and maintenance is a day-to-day, month-to-month, indeed year-to-year proposition. There’s no vacation for park managers.
            There are trail projects that have the good fortune to be near enough to a population base that there are enough volunteers to staff a trail without professional help. The Cardinal Greenway from Muncie to Richmond, Ind. is one of those trails, but most trails eventually end up as city or county parks. Although we have wonderful volunteers who give generously for trail work and the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride, we do not have enough to do all the work needed to perform maintenance on a 17-mile trail.
            The park departments have the expertise to manage a park that we lack. The problem in 2011 is that in these tough economic times, parks are some of the first government agencies to have their budgets cuts. Legislators don’t see parks as essential services. It is, to my way of thinking, a shortsighted viewpoint, but it’s the reality.
            What does trail maintenance involve? Here’s a partial list. 
§  Mowing the shoulders.
§  Surface cleaning to remove fallen branches and leaves.
§  Planting wildflowers and native grasses.
§  Tree pruning and removal
§  Invasive species removal
§  Empty trash cans
§  Repairing cracks and potholes in the asphalt or ruts in the limestone.
§  Patrolling the trail.
§  Removal of illegal dumping
§  Repairing fences,
§  Inspecting bridges
§  Fixing signs, benches, fences and gates.
            How do the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc. and our supporters fit into this phase of the trail’s life? What will our role be? How can we make the best contribution?
            That’s part of what our board and the Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee will help clarify in the next few years. In my mind, the creation of this trail is not like a relay race in which we (the Friends) hand to baton off to the next runner (the four local agencies) to manage the trail. Instead, it is a partnership in which we work alongside these agencies.
         How might that work? We can supply some volunteers, like we did last year after the June 17, 2009 storm that toppled dozens of trees onto the trail. We could also help fund a staff position that would greatly enable management of the trail and take pressure off the local managing agencies. 
But questions remain: Will our supporters be willing to “tax” themselves through membership dues toward such a goal? Will the annual bike ride continue to flourish and provide income above expenses to the Friends? Will sponsors be as generous five and 10 years after the trail is open?
            It is our responsibility to make the case for that continuing support.

Monday, November 28, 2011

You can support trail health

Many of you have commented on Facebook about how much you enjoy the trail. Some of you have asked how you can help support it, and others have wondered if it needs financial support.
The answer is yes, it needs financial support. The Friends of the Pumpkinvine are working with Goshen Parks, Elkhart County Parks, and the towns of Middlebury and Shipshewana to create a financial partnership that will support trail maintenance. In essence, the Friends are becoming an organization that provides grants to these local public agencies for trail upkeep. No, repairing a mower isn’t as glamorous as building a trail or decking a bridge, but it’s a very necessary part of keeping the trail useable, safe and attractive.
            Please join us in our efforts to keep the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail a first-class greenway by making a tax-deductable donation online or through the mail.
Mail:  Friends of the Pumpkinvine, Box 392, Goshen, IN 46527
Online:  Donate online
John D. Yoder,  president , Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Greenways support diversity

Early in the history of the Pumpkinvine Natural Trail, geneticist and naturalist Dr. Merle Jacobs emphasized that greenbelts like the Pumpkinvine are important corridors that connect plant and animal communities. On November 12, 2011, I attended the Indiana Native Plant & Wildflower Society annual conference at Indianapolis that reinforced Jacob’s point.  

The conference theme, “Connectivity & Corridors, “ illustrated the importance of greenway corridors from different contexts, e.g. Amazon and Indiana forests and Golden Lion Tamarins and local bumble bees. If fragments of forests remain isolated from each other, the diversity of plants and animals decreases over time in each fragment. See the greenway dimension of the Pumpkinvine on Google maps: Pumpkinvine from CR 1100 W to 900 W

But green corridors, even a corridor only 80 feet wide, like the Pumpkinvine,  make it more likely that diverse plants and animals thrive in each fragment. Pollinating insects, ants and small rodents that disperse seeds, and birds that need the protection of tree canopy can travel from one small forest fragment to another. The next time you bike or hike our lovely Pumpkinvine you may want to think on all the living things besides us bipeds that profit from this crucial corridor.   (Submitted by John J. Smith, November 14, 2011)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A better way to run

Since many users of the Pumpkinvine are runners, I'm linking an article from the New York Times magazine about an interesting approach to running that claims to cause many fewer or no injuries, something the article claims is a problem for the vast majority (79%) of all runners.  The Once and Future Way to Run

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Elkhart County Parks annual photo contest

One of the contest categories in this year's photo contest is "Focus on the Pumpkinvine"

Photos in this category should capture the character of this blossoming county park. Photos in this category must be taken within the boundaries of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail.

Any photographer can submit pictures for display; however, Elkhart County Parks and Recreation Department staff, their immediate families, and professionals may not compete for awards. The Elkhart County Parks and/or Concord Mall reserve the right to reject entries which might be deemed in poor taste.

Forms are available at the Elkhart County Parks office and other sponsor locations and must accompany each pictureattached to the back. Entries may be color or black and white 5" x 7" minimum, to 11" x 14" maximum, and mounted flush or matted (no glass frames or picture hooks). Three entries in each category are allowed per person. Persons wishing to enter the “Best Special Effects Award” must indicate the special effect techniques that were used (ie special processing, multiple exposure, computer enhancement, etc.)

Entry Deadline
Each entry complete with attached form on back must be submitted to the Elkhart County Park and Recreation Department at 211 West Lincoln Ave., Goshen, Indiana or the Concord Mall Information Desk by 4:00 p.m. Friday, January 13, 2012. For additional information, you may contact the park office at 574-535-6458.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Friends of the Pumpkinvine on Facebook

We are nearing 600 fans on our Friends of the Pumpkinvine Facebook page. Friends of the Pumpkinvine on Facebook. Most of the People I don't know. It's an entirely new set of connections to this project. Will they become supporters? That's the question.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Family moved to Goshen in part because of Pumpkinvine

A letter in today's Goshen News from Valerie Collins mentions the fact that one of the reasons she and her husband moved to Goshen was because of the bike trails, and one of the reasons they checked out Goshen was that they heard of "The Pumpkinvine Trail."  So it is true, at least for this family, that people make major choices in life, like where to live, based on things like the presence of trails. As he says, it indicates that "this was a community that cared for the residents who lived here." Here's the whole article:  Letter to Goshen News, Nov. 1, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Construction on the MapleHeart - Oct. 25

Here are a few scenes from the construction on the MapleHeart, the part that will link that trail to the Pumpkinvine.  These photos are of the section between Oak Ridge Park and Main St., the part that was most challenging, since they had to go under the 3rd St. overpass.  Construction of the MapleHeart Trail in Goshen  It is possible that due to the rain they won't be finished by Nov. 1.

I asked one of the workers about the gravel section between Main St. and the Pumpkinvine, and she said that it would remain gravel until the city finished some sewer work in that area. But it is rideable surface. I met three bikers on it earlier in the week.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MapleHeart opening

The official opening of the MapleHeart Trail was this afternoon. Because of the rain and cool weather, the crowd was small. We gathered under a small tent. Mary Cripe thanked those who had contributed to the project through the years. Mayors Allan Kauffman of Goshen and Dick Moore of Elkhart each celebrated this new connection between the two cities aftern many years of being on the drawing board. 

Mary and the mayors took turns driving a "Golden Spoke" into a hole in the concrete to commorate the occasion, similar to the way the railroads did in 1869 with the driving of the "Golden Spike" to symbolize the completion of the transcontinental railroad.

Here's a link to WNDU's story:  MapleHeart story

Here are two photos of the occasion:  Mary Cripe, mayors Kauffman and Moore

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wild turkeys

Three wild turkeys along the Pumpkinvine.
 I saw about 10 turkeys walk across the Pumpkinvine north of SR 4 this morning. They walked in single file slowly across the trail, ignoring me. By the time I could get my camera out and get closer, they were in the brush.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Part of Pumpkinvine Nature Trail closed to redeck bridge

NOTICE: On  Saturday Oct. 8, the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail will be closed between County Road 43 and County Road 1150 W from 8:30 a.m. until it is finished in order to redeck the bridge east of CR 43. There is no way around the bridge reconstruction. Trail users must use CR 16/250N to the south or CR 10/450 N to the north as a detour around this section.  It  is possible that the work will not be completed on Oct. 8, in which case it will be closed till it is finished on Oct. 10 or 11. Message from Elkhart County Parks and Friends of the Pumpkinvine. 

Ribbon cutting for MapleHeart Trail

The ribbon cutting for the MapleHeart Trail linking Goshen and Elkhart will be Thursday, Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. at Ox Bow Park.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

MapleHeart and Pumpkinvine

Word from Mary Cripe, Goshen City engineer, is that the connection between the Pumpkinvine and the MapleHeart Trail will be completed by Nov. 1, 2011.  Here's a link to some photos of the section of the MapleHeart yet to be done between N. 1st Street and the bridge over Rock Run Creek.  Construction: Pumpkinvine to MapleHeart - Sept. 26, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Getting from CR 33 to the DQ in Middlebury

Here are two ways to get to Middlebury from the end of the Pumpkinvine at CR 33.

CR 33 to Middlebury DQ -- from the west on county roads. Note that Google maps mislabels US 20 as US 26.

CR 33 to Middlebury DQ via SR 13

Remarks at ribbon cutting, Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, September 20, 2011

By John Yoder, president
Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc.

When I look back on the beginnings of our Friends organization and our efforts to create this greenway, and when I remember the obstacles we overcame to get to this ribbon cutting, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s something of a miracle we’re standing here today.  What made today possible were many small miracles that happened along the way.

·         When we needed an expert to research the title to the Pumpkinvine corridor, Jim Ingold was there.
·         When we needed legal advice on how to begin a non-profit organization, Galen Kauffmann volunteered.
·         When we needed property-law expertise, Jim Byron, Jim Brother, Chuck Grodnik and Doug Mulvany offered to work pro bono.
·         When we needed $100,000 to purchase the land, 135 founders opened their checkbooks to buy the corridor.
·         When we needed a banker to help us get a $40,000 loan to complete the purchase, C.J. Yoder lent us his expertise.
·         When we needed an appraisal to determine the value of the land as a local match, Iverson Grove volunteered his time.
·         When we needed the experience of established trails to guide our decision making, Rory Robinson of the National Park Service and Bob Bronson gave us excellent advice.
·         When we needed to form partnerships with Goshen Parks, Rich Fay and Sherri Howland became those partners.
·         When the trail pushed into Elkhart County, Dan Seltenright and Larry Neff became board members.
·         When we had the opportunity build a demo section of trail in Middlebury, John McKee and Mark Salee made it happen.
·         When we needed advocates in Shipshewana, Norm Kauffmann, Mike Puro, Sheryl Kelly and Roger Yoder became those advocates.
·         When our organization needed someone who obsessed about the details needed to negotiate land swaps with adjacent land owners, Jim Smith and Bob Carrico gave us outstanding leadership.
·         When we needed a person to create a signature bike ride to publicize and raise funds for the trail, Danny Graber volunteered for the job.

Time does not permit a recitation of the contribution of all 42 people who have served on our board of directors, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention several who have served 10 years or more:  Mike Bontreger, Bob Hatch, Quinn Holdeman, Jr. , Merritt Lehman and Myron Yoder.

 On behalf of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc., I want to thank everyone who contributed their time, talent and money to create, what I think, will be a wonderful community asset.

They had the faith and vision to make the idea of a greenway into the  reality we celebrate today.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pumpkinvine Work Party, Oct. 8

When:  Saturday, October 8, 2011, 8:30 am
What:  The wooden-trestle bridge 500 feet east of County Road 43 was renovated in 2009. A temporary deck was installed to circumvent damage during trail construction. The work party will remove the temporary deck and install a new one with side rails.
Elkhart County Parks will provide the lumber, bolts, screws, an electric generator, saw and other equipment.
Participation:  If you plan to help, please notify me at
What to bring:  Below is a list of equipment we will need. Bring the equipment you have on hand:
  1. Gloves, tape measure, pencil to mark boards
  2. Hammer and wrecking bar.
  3. Electric drill (we will have a generator but cordless drills will be useful too). Driver bits for Torx screws will be supplied.
We will provide drinking water.
Where:  The work site is on County Road 43 east of Middlebury. From Middlebury travel east on County Road 16 (Warren St.) and turn north on County Road 43 at approximately 2 miles. The trail crosses County Road 43 within ¾ mile. Park in the trail parking lot and walk about 500 feet east to the bridge.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Middlebury to Shipshewana

I hear of more and more people riding the Pumpkinvine from Middlebury to Shipshewana. The reviews are very positive.

John Yoder

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pumpkinvine Nature Trail ribbon cutting will be Sept. 20, 2011

The  official opening and ribbon cutting for the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between Middlebury and Shipshewana will be held Tuesday, September 20 at 1: 30 p.m. at the intersection of the trail and County Road 900 W. just north of County Road 250 N. Parking is available at Lifegate Church at the corner of 250 N and 900 W.

Bob Carrico, Larry Neff, Myron Yoder, Jim Smith, John Yoder,
Norm Kauffmann, Chet Peachey, Mike Bontrager

Officials from the Town of Shipshewana, Middlebury, Elkhart County Parks, Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc., and the Indiana Department of Transportation, will participate in the ribbon cutting. Anyone interested in the trail is invited to attend.
            The construction of this six-mile section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, which nearly doubles the current developed portions of the trail, was a coordinated effort of Elkhart County Parks and the Town of Shipshewana. The engineering-consulting firm was DLZ Indiana, LLC, and the contractor was Walsh & Kelly, Inc. Funding came from Federal Transportation Enhancement Funds, with the local match coming from the Town of Shipshewana, Elkhart County Parks, and the value of the land donated by the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc.
             The Middlebury-Shipshewana portion of the trail has a small gap from York Street and State Road 13 to east of the Dairy Queen in Middlebury that will hopefully be finished in 2012 or 2013. Other sections scheduled for completion in 2012 include the 1.2-miles from Wayne St. to US 20 and a 1.2-mile section between County Road 37 and County Road 35.
            When all phases are completed, the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail will connect Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana with a linear park 17 miles long. In Goshen, it will also connect to the 10-mile long MapleHeart Trail to Elkhart.

Friday, August 12, 2011

2011 Pumpkinvine Bike Ride Photos

Photos from the 2011 Pumpkinvine Bike Ride are now online.  2011 Pumpkinvine Bike Ride

Many thanks to the photographers who helped take photos:  Branden Beachy, Ellen Stevens, Joe Guth and John Yoder.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Construction progress -- Middlebury to Shipshewana

The workers are making great progress on Middlebury to Shipshewana.  These photos are from July 23, 2011.  Construction progress, July 23, 2011.  What remains to be done is finish the paving of the connection between the trail and the county roads that it crosses, and to pour concrete for the easements across the trail, mainly between CR 1150 W and CR 1100 W.  The other missing element is the shoulder. They are using a fine crushed stone for a shoulder instead of planting grass. Grass needs to be mowed and even when it is not mowed, it catches debris, like leaves and twigs, from the trail when workers are trying to sweep the trail clean. I think it looks great.

The other major gap is between the end of the trail east of the DQ and SR 13. At the moment, there is a path through the woods from the DQ parking lot to access the trail. Since workers are working every day at various points, it is not adviseable to ride the trail then. However, on weekends it is possible.

The trail construction is on schedule for completion by Sept. 1, 2011. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Last year, the Friends of the Pumpkinvine bought wildflower and native grass seeds for Elkhart County Parks to plant along sunny sections of the Pumpkinvine. We're seeing the first blossoming of that planting now in the wonderful display of Black-Eyed Susans along the trail.  BlaPublish Postck-Eyed Susans along the Pumpkinvine

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sun and shade

Over it 100 year history, the Pumpkinvine corridor became tree lined -- not something that happens to every rail corridor by any means. A main line like the Norfolk Southern that goes through Elkhart County has almost no trees along it tracks. So it was one of the primary benefits of preserving this greenway that it was tree lined, which means it would offer shade to the walker or rider.

But the corridor of 1981 when the trains stopped running, which was heavily tree, lined has changed. Several farmers who thought they owned the corridor leveled the trees. In negotiating with them later to avoid long and expensive litigation, the Friends of the Pumpkinvine agreed to swap the original corridor for a path around their fields. The result is that the current five miles is a mixture of a tree-lined greenway and open areas that go through land planted in corn and soybeans.

I was thinking about this change as I rode the trail this week. The transition from the open areas to the cool shade of the trees was dramatic. It felt like the temperature dropped 10 degrees when I entered the shaded sections from the open areas. On a hot day, the shade was a great relief.

Yet the open areas had interesting things to see as well. Each time I ride through the fields I see the change in the height of the corn. It makes me think more about the source of my food and wonder about the well being of the farmers in general. Those open spaces are also an opportunity for us to plant native grasses and wildflowers, which Elkhart County Parks has done in several places. Right now they are spectacular.

So, although the Pumpkinve isn't a continuous tree-lined greenway, it has variety that is visually stimulating and open spaces that make me appreciate the shaded areas even more. -- John Yoder

Monday, June 20, 2011

Latest update on trail construction

The June 19 Elkhart Truth had a very good and up-to-date article on construction progress on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail from Larry Neff, director of Elkhart County Parks.  Elkhart Truth article

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Riding between Middlebury and Shipshewana

People are asking if they can ride on the newly paved section of trail west of CR 43. Here's the answer from Larry Neff, director of Elkhart County Parks.

"The Pumpkinvine Trail that is paved east of Middlebury is still under construction. They have several more phases before it is complete. INDOT does not like trail use until they "sign off" on a project.

In the case of the trail heading west toward Middlebury that is paved, it does not connect to anything at this point. It was designed to come to SR 13 and cross to the west side and continue to the Middlebury trail segment. However, at the last moment INDOT cancelled the design to cross SR 13 at the DQ. 

Consequently, our trail ends in a woods and we have submitted another grant to refund the short connection route to connect to the Middlebury Trail using the east side of SR 13 as the trail. We plan to do some clearing so a cyclist or hiker could get to SR 13 but they would be on their own from that point.

Please be patient we are almost complete in this area. The contactors believe they will be finished all the way to LaGrange CR 850 by August 1. Let's hope they are good estimators."

The importance of the Pumpkinvine by Shelli Yoder

Homework, housework, career demands, and athletic schedules. So many commitments to keep our lives at a frantic pace. Opportunities to slow down and spend time together as a family are always a top priority.  For many years my family lived in Nashville, Tennessee, which is a relatively quiet and very friendly town - a lot like Shipshewana in these respects.

But some of my family’s best memories were spent about 25 miles outside of Nashville in a little town called Ashland City. It was in Ashland City that we discovered a 5-mile stretch of paved bicycle trail that had formerly been a railroad line.  We spent many Saturdays with our children, sometimes pushing them in strollers and sometimes riding bicycles up and down this peaceful, rural stretch of Tennessee wilderness. Which is the best thing about a trail like the one in Ashland City or the Pumpkin Vine - it is an easy, affordable and safe way for the entire family to get a little taste of the wilderness. A little relief from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. A little time to reconnect to yourself and the ones you love.

And it is also a time to reconnect to nature. And maybe it seems like living in the world’s most beautiful Amish country it feels like you are surrounded by nature. But experiencing nature through the windows of a car or truck certainly isn’t the same as a meandering and reflective stroll or bicycle ride.

I want my kids to grow up enjoying the outdoors, playing outside, and feeling connected to nature. Current research shows that kids today spend less than 30 minutes a week engaged in unstructured outdoor play. And that’s a shame since spending time in nature yields all sorts of health benefits: physical, mental, and psychological. A safe and inviting outdoor trail like the Pumpkinvine is the perfect place for a family to spend an hour or two out in the fresh air.

From my perspective, the Pumpkinvine is a local treasure for the Shipshewana community. To me, Shipshewana and the surrounding areas are one of the most special places in America - a real national trophy - and the Pumpkinvine is like a “trophy case” - a special space that accentuates and highlights Shipshe and provides a “walkable and bikeable observation deck” that really shows-off the unique land and people of this special place.

I’ve been back to Shipshewana and the surrounding communities many, many times since my childhood, but I am especially looking forward to coming back with my husband and children when the Pumpkinvine is complete and exploring anew these places that I love so deeply.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Article in Goshen News reflects enthusiasm for Pumpkinvine completion

The lead article in the Goshen News today talks about the trail being finished in 2012. Goshen News article on Pumpkinvine, June 7, 2011We have been fortunate through the years to have had the support of the News. Numerous editorials through the years have highlighted the benefits of the trail for the community and encouraged its completion.

Their interest in the trail reflects the general interest in the community that I sense more and more. People constantly ask me when it will be done, and the bike shop owners I see also tell me that their customers ask them when it will be done.

The answer isn't easy because so much depends on funding from INDOT and INDNR, who have funds for trails, but also many requests for those funds. And we don't know what will happen next year. The word we hear from both agencies is that when Congress cuts spending, they will very likely cut funding for trails, that they don't consider essential.  So if the trail doesn't receive funding for construction this year, it could delay completion indefinitely.
-- John Yoder

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Local interest in the trail

Yesterday I rode on the dead-end section of the trail that goes west from County Road 37, just to see how it was looking. At the end of the pavement, I met two Amish women who were stopped there. I stopped and said hello. They asked me if I knew what the corridor was like further west, and if they should attempt to ride it. One had a regular bike and the other a bike with a wagon hitched on behind. I told them it was fairly rough and with their loaded trailer, it would be better to turn around. They had seen that the trail was rough at CR 35, but thought perhaps it was just a small section that wasn’t paved.

Then the older woman asked me when the trail would be finished to CR 35. She lived on CR 35 and was anxious to use the trail to get into Middlebury. I told her it would be done next spring. She asked if they could go north from CR 22 into Middlebury (they didn’t seem to be aware that construction stopped at US 20), and I told her that would be finished next year, also.

To me it was another indication of the interest in the community to get the trail finished.

Construction progress - May 21, 2011

Looking west from County Road 43.
The construction is progressing nicely on the trail. Two rollers and an asphalt laying machine are sitting at CR 43. It looks like that section, both east and west of CR 43, is ready to pave.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Grass shoulders

It's exciting to see the brown dirt of last summer from the tunnel construction turning to green grass this spring. Here are some photos of the small section of trail between CR 22 and the U.S. 20 tunnel. Approach to US 20 tunnel from the south

Construction update: May 13, 2011

State Road 13 to CR 43: Not much has changed in this area. It is ready for paving. SR 13 to CR 43
CR 43 to CR 1150W:  Looking west from CR 43, this section looks like it could be ready to pave soon. No new pictures.

CR 1150W to CR 1100W:  Major work was done in this section to grade and fill the area that was off the original corridor. CR 1150 W to CR 1100 W

CR 1100W to CR 1000W:  Workers were grading a smoothing this section. It is going to be a beautiful mile of trail with lots of trees and interesting fields. CR 1100 W to 1000 W

CR 1000W to CR 900W:  Grading has begun in this section. CR 1000 W to 900 W

CR 900W to CR 850W:  The mounds of dirt haven’t changed much here. CR 900W to CR 850W

Saturday, May 7, 2011

“I see a light at the end of the tunnel” -- State of the trail

Friends of the Pumpkinvine annual dinner
Greencroft Senior Center
April 26, 2011
John Yoder, president
It’s a pleasure to see so many supporters and potential supporters of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine and the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. Thank you for coming.

Tonight my assignment is to briefly review the state of the trail and the Friends organization. My title (inspired by the tunnel under US 20) is: “I see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Tunnel under U.S. 20
When we use that phrase, “light at the end of the tunnel,” we usually mean that we’re moving to a more satisfying phase of a project, like saying, “We finished putting the shingles on the roof, the carpet is laid; the electrical wiring is finished:  I see light at the end of the tunnel – the day we can all move into our new house.”

Tonight I see lights like that in three area:
·         Trail construction
·         Legal issues
·         The future of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine as an organization

First: Trail construction                                
To say that this trail has been slow to materialize is an understatement. Goshen opened 1.75 miles in 2000, Middlebury added .6 miles in 2005. The pace picked up in 2008: and Elkhart County Parks built .5 miles in 2008 and 2.9 miles in 2009, and a small section and tunnel in 2010 for a total of five plus miles in 16 years. That pace tries the patience of the most loyal trail advocates. How grateful we are that you have continued to be supporters all those years.

But the light I see reflects the fact that 2011 will be a huge year for construction. And 2012 will see another mile finished.

Here are a few images from 2010 to remind you of what your support has helped accomplish.  The tunnel under U.S. 20

A parking area at the corner of County Road 37 and County Road 22, and an extension of the trail west of CR 37, where the neighborhood kids didn’t seem to mind that that the segment was only a quarter mile long and didn’t connect to anything;

Ground breaking: Roger Yoder, 
Larry Neff, Norm Kauffmann, 
John Yoder, Bob Carrico, Jim Smith, 
Mike Bontreger, Chet Peachey, 
Mike Puro 
In September 2010, we had a ground breaking for the six miles from Middlebury to Shipshewana, construction has begun, and most of that section will be done this summer. That addition doubles the length of the trail.

Then the completion of US 20 to Wayne St. in Middlebury is scheduled for 2012.

Of the land that we own and could be developed, that leaves only a small section between CR 35 and CR 37 to be funded. So completion of primary construction is in sight by fall 2012.

Yes, there are issues to resolve. Elkhart County Parks has as yet not secured funding for the last 500 feet of trail east of the DQ in Middlebury and has not resolve the crossing SR 13. And the trail will still be on county roads for 1.7 miles between County Road 33 and County Road 35, but trail construction is at a stage where we can definitely see light at the end of the tunnel.

The second area where I see light at the end of tunnel is with respect to legal issues

We have been defending our title to the Pumpkinvine corridor since 1994 overcoming legal impediments through eight mediations and/or law suits. As I speak, one case continues. But, tonight I have good news: I can see the promised land of no more law suits.

The end is in sight. On April 1, 2011, the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the ruling of Judge Steven Bowers of Elkhart Superior Court, issued Aug. 2, 2010, that the Friends were the owner of disputed land between CR 35 and CR 37. However, since the defendant has 30 days to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, we have not announced this decision publically. That deadline is May 1, so in six days we will know if there is an appeal.  Here is the location of the disputed section. Here’s what the corridor looks like at ground level.  [Note: no appeal was filed.]

 This legal “tunnel of frustration” has two dimensions: 1) when there is a cloud on the ownership of the corridor, it is impossible to get state or federal funding for development; they don’t want to gamble tax-payers money on land in dispute; 2) the legal process of proving our ownership is costly. We love our lawyers, but really, do we need to finance the college education for all their kids?  These are funds that we could have applied to building the trail. We’ve now spend twice as much in legal fees as we spent to buy the corridor in the first place. Even through we’ve won every legal challenge to our ownership or settled them through mediation, it’s been a huge waste of time and money.

But I believe the end of our ownership disputes is near. We don’t know of any legal challenges on the horizon. That’s a bright light at the end of the tunnel.

Before moving on to my third point, I’d like to introduce the board of directors of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine, the group that has had the fortitude and stamina to nurture this greenway through numerous tunnels of frustration and celebrations. Please stand as I call your name. Mike Bontreger, Robert Carrico, Quinn Holdeman, Jr., Cathy Miller, Larry Neff, Chet Peachey, Jim Smith, Bud Wulliman, Rhonda Yoder

The group you just saw is critical to the third light I see at the end of the tunnel, because that light has to do with defining what role Friends of the Pumpkinvine will have, if any, once we’ve given all the land away. Our work the past 20 years has been a little bit like giving birth to and nurturing this wonderful linear park -- and then piece by piece giving it up for adoption to Goshen Parks, Elkhart County Parks, Middlebury and Shipshewana. We’re thrilled that the local agencies are willing to accept the donation, given their limited resources. They’ve been wonderful stewards of the gift.

One role I foresee is to encourage volunteers. For example, Elkhart County Park Dept. has a volunteer position called trail host that I participate in. Every time I ride the Pumpkinvine, I record the ride in a monthly log that I send to Ronda DeCaire. If I see something that needs immediate attention, like a washout or a fallen tree, I send an email to Ronda telling her what I’ve seen and where so that her staff can fix it. Park department staff also monitor the trail daily, but more eyes are always needed.

Bob Carrico clearing trail after
June 17 storm
Another possibility is to become a volunteer trail steward – a role we have had for years. Last year we helped build fence at CR 127. And after the June 17 storm, when there were dozens of trees down on the trail, Bob Carrico, Bud Wulliman and I got chainsaws and started to work, with the park staff, to clear the trees. Four days later the trail was clear.

Interestingly, just because there were 30 plus trees blocking the trail, it made no difference. People refused to accept the fact that it was virtually unpassible.

The most provocative possibility I see for the Friends comes from a group we have called the Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee (PAC). This group includes the heads of the park departments from Goshen and Elkhart County, park staff from all four cities and the town managers from Middlebury and Shipshewana, as well as representatives from our board. We have begun meeting to develop a strategy to coordinate management of the Pumpkinvine.

PAC. Front (from left):  Sheri Howland, superintendent, Goshen Parks; Tanya Heyde, recreation supervisor, Goshen Parks; Mark Salee, Middlebury town manager, Dave Palenchar, building and grounds superintendent, town of Shipshewana. Back: Ronda DeCaire, superintendent of operations, Goshen Parks; Tom Enright, park and recreation manager, Middlebury Parks; Bob Carrico, trail operations manager, Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc.; Larry Neff, director, Elkhart County Parks; John Yoder, president, Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc.
Missing  the day of the picture were:  Sheryl Kelly, town manager, Shipshewana; Rich Kindel, director of maintenance, Goshen Parks;  Steve Gangloff, area manager, Elkhart County Parks; and John McKee, chair, Middlebury Park board.

I must say that given the potential for turf wars in a group representing the Friends and four diverse governmental units, the spirit of cooperation in these meets so far has been outstanding. To me, that’s the way government should work. The dynamics are completely the opposite of the nonfunctioning government satirized in of that old country song: “The oil is all in Texas, but the dip sticks are in D.C.”  There are no dipsticks in this group.

As I sit in these meetings, I hear our local agencies talking enthusiastically about the potential of the trail for their community: 

·         To create  jobs in retail and tourism businesses:
v  Along the Pumpkinvine a shop that caters to tourists
v  Pumpkinvine Cyclery a new local bike shop
·       To provide off-road transportation:  Workers can use the trail for transportation to get to Jayco, Syndicate, Sunnybrooke RV, Coachman. Children can use it to get to Pumpkinvine Amish School on CR 35 and Plain View Amish School on CR 43, oldest in this area (1948).
·       For recreation with its inherent health benefits to combat obesity and type II diabetes through biking, walking and jogging, rollerblading, and cross country skiing.
·       To enhance our appreciation for wildflowers, small animals, trees and wetlands.

I also hear this group say, “We need help to promote and manage trail activities. We don’t have the staff to do that. Don’t abandon us now.”

What exactly is this group proposing for the future of trail management? Working out those details is our primary agenda for the next year. There are two major options:
·         The Friends could become consultants to the government units on trail issues. Financially, the Friends could help fund trail operations or equipment through grants to the four trail operators.

·         The second possibility is that the four government agencies contract with the Friends to coordinate volunteers, marketing and promotion of the trail, and provide grants for projects.

Either option is workable, IF past support for the Friends continues into the future.

That’s the big question: Will donors who helped preserve the corridor support the Friends of the Pumpkinvine in the role of assisting the park department with promotion and grants? Will trail advocates continue what in essence is a voluntary, self-imposed tax to support trail maintenance, for example, which is not nearly as glamorous as building the trail?  Let’s look at some figures and trends that give us a clue about the future.

Our year-to-year finances of the Friend of the Pumpkinvine continue to be strong.
·         Memberships and donations have remained steady the past six years.
·         The bike ride continues to bring in between $6,000 and $10,000 a year. But there’s new competition, too. The popularity of rides comes and goes. Nothing is certain.
·         Corporate sponsorships have declined since the recession hit.

Obviously, even though the trend is positive, we can’t predict the future level of support from members, corporate donors and the bike ride, our three largest sources of income.

However, if we maintained the same level of support from the bike ride, supporters and corporate sponsors as we’ve had in last six years, and did not have to pay legal fees, we’d easily have enough income to support a part-time staff position to offer the park departments for a variety of tasks.

Our challenge as a Friends board is to imagine our role in this new environment – where construction is complete, there are no more law suits and the local agencies are asking for help to manage certain aspects of the trail. Can we move from building trail to sustaining the trail?

It is also our challenge to adapt to new circumstances in a way that continues to connect with supporters like you. The brochure on your tables tells you how you can join the Friends of the Pumpkinvine and be part of the next phase of our journey.

Several weeks ago I attended a meeting of non-profit organizations in Indianapolis to learn what I could about strengthening our board of directors. One phrase from that conference challenged me more than any other. The idea, from Jim McClelland, head of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, was this:  “Organizations that don’t adapt to changes in environment become ineffective, irrelevant or extinct.”

As we imagine the future, we hope that you will join us in this new phase of the trail and the Friends’ organization where together we help maintain a wonderful, beautiful, health-inducing greenway that will enhance our community for generations to come. Thank you for your attention.