Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Friday, March 25, 2011

Generous local bike shops

One of the benefits that supporters of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine receive are discounts on equipment and repairs at local bike shops. In addition, three of the shops have taken turns donating a $400-$500 bike as a door prize at our annual dinner.

I'm sure that none of the owners of these shops is getting rich selling and repairing bikes, yet they are willing to give discounts to supporters of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail that cut into their profits. I've met many community-minded people in my years of working on this rails-to-trails project, but these local bike shop owners are exemplary in that regard.

By showing your Friends’ membership card, you are eligible for discounts on specified purchases at the following area bicycle shops: Elkhart Bicycle Shop, Elkhart; Family Bicycle, Elkhart; Lincoln Avenue Cycling and Fitness, Goshen; House of Bicycles, Osceola; Pumpkinvine Cyclery, Middlebury, and Union Cycle Works, Shipshewana. You can view the specific discounts on the page to the right: "Supporter discounts at area bike shops."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Two starting place for the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride and taking risks

This year is our 12th annual Pumpkinvine Bike Ride. The ride on  June 18 is important to the Friends of the Pumpkinvine because it is one of the principle ways we raised funds for our organization and trail development.

For the first time, we're having two staging areas: Goshen's Abshire Park that we used for 10 years; and the Shipshewana Flea Market. We decided on two locations to start because we were running out of parking at Abshire Park. For that reason, we moved the start to Goshen High School last year, but we discovered that the problems of bikers having to cross U.S. 33 and two sets of railroad tracks were more than we anticipated. There were too many delays and too much traffic. At one point, a train was completely stopped on the 9th Street railroad line. The main Norfolk Southern line has 80 trains a day, and they are very long. As much as we like the high school, getting to and from it was not easy.

So now we are taking the bold step of starting in two places and changing the routes and SAG stops in the most radical way we've ever done. The new routes have added new wrinkles for those who have done the ride before. How will people respond?

The reality is that taking risks is part of the bike-ride package. We risk bad weather, competition from other rides, and accidents. It's part of running an event with 1,000 bikers. We organize and anticipate as many contingencies as possible. That's all we can reasonably do.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Riding the Pumpkinvine on a sunny day in mid-March

Trail conditions on March 16, 2011We haven't had many warm days so far this year. On the contrary, the weather has been cold and wet, in other words, not the best weather for riding on the trail. There is the additional factor of the wet weather making the limestone section of the trail from SR 4 to CR 28 too soft to ride for many narrow-tired bikes and for the tires to throw the wet limestone onto the bike.

So, with those wet conditions, I have not ridden on the trail yet this year -- until today. When the temperature hit 59 degrees, the sun was shining, and I had finished my work that had to be done, I decided that I wanted to see what condition the trail surface was in. I decided to take my mountain bike, in case the limestone was soft.

I needn't have worried. The surface, though rutted from bikers who had ridden when it was soft, was solid. I saw a number of skinny-tired bikes breezing along. I was surprised by how many people I saw:  joggers, couples pushing a baby, bikers going full tilt like they were in training, and others out for a stroll,all like me, enjoying and putting to good use the first sunny day of spring-like weather.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ground breaking for Middlebury to Shipshewana section of the Pumpkinvine

Jim Smith, executive director of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc., speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony, Sept. 22, 2010.  Yes, it's late getting posted.  Ground breaking for Middlebury to Shipshewana

Distracted drivers on the increase

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports magazine just released a poll showing that 63% of people under age 30 admit driving while using a mobile phone, and 30% admit texting while driving.

For drivers over age 30, 41% acknowledged using a mobile phone while driving, and 9% admitted texting behind the wheel.

The scariest figure of all may be that only about one third of the younger crowd said they think such behavior is dangerous! That means over 40% of U.S. drivers under age 30 are willfully ignorant or dismissive of the incredible danger inherent in distracted driving.

The Department of Transportation says nearly 5,500 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in the U.S. in 2009.

To date, 30 states have passed laws prohibiting texting or reading from a mobile device while driving. Other states and municipalities prohibit, to varying degrees, using a mobile phone while behind the wheel.  From newsletter Issue No. 471 - 03/10/11 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Who will maintain the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail?

The second meeting of local agencies to plan how to coordinate the management the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail after it is completed was Feb. 28, 2011. It would be hard to overstate the importance of this development in the history of the trail.
            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 interagency coordinating council (my term) 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 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.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Friends of the Pumpkinvine newsletter online

The Friends of the Pumpkinvine March newsletter is now online at our website.  This version, unlike the printed one, is in color:  March Pumpkinvine Trail Talk.

Some of the articles appeared first in this blog. I like the idea of publishing articles for our newsletter online first. It gives me a sense of how they will look in print, more than just seeing the hard copy, and it motivates me to get the printed version done. Early March is the earliest I've ever gotten the newsletter finished.

Spring wildflower walk on the Pumpkinvine

Winder Aconite
You are invited to a guided wildflower walk along the newest section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail with John Smith, professor emeritus of education at Goshen College.  The walk will be Sunday, April 17, 2011 from 3 – 5 p.m.

You will likely see Hepatica, Spring Beauty, Harbinger of Spring, Wild Ginger, several species of Violets, Bloodroot and other early spring flowers.

If you have questions, contact Smith at or 533-9496.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Exercising helps you live longer and look better

The British Journal of Sports Medicine (March 2008) reported that people who exercise regularly live an average of 12 years longer than non-exercisers.
Living longer is a wonderful thing. Looking better while doing it is a very nice side effect.
            "Most middle-aged and older athletes look significantly younger than non-exercisers of the same age," asserts cycling physician Dr. Gabe Mirkin.  The doc's bottom line: "Following the training methods of competitive athletes allows fit older people to run, cycle and do other sports at close to the level of much younger athletes. Recent studies show that intense exercise may also slow the effects of aging on their hearts and muscles as well as their cells."
            But remember, he cautions, "Intense exercise can cause heart attacks in people with blocked arteries. Check with your doctor before you increase the intensity of your exercise program."
            For more details on telomeres, check the New York Times article, "How Exercising Keeps Your Cells Young." Newsletter. Issue No. 429 - 02/11/10: