Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Request for fall photos

In the next few weeks, the leaves along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail will start to turn yellow and red, a rich display of fall colors, and we (the Friends of the Pumpkinvine) would like post some of your best photos of the fall colors on our website, on Facebook and on our blog. This is not a contest, just an opportunity for you to share some of color of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail in the fall. You may post them here yourself or if you'd like to have them posted on our website and blog, send them to

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Advantages of a limestone trail surface

One of the questions people ask me about the Pumpkinvine  is, when will the limestone section of the trail between CR 28 and SR 4  be paved? 

The answer is that this section of the Pumpkinvine is owned by the City of Goshen, and what I've heard from Sheri Howland, director of Goshen Parks is  that they will pave it when money becomes available. The priority projects for Friends of the Pumpkinvine right now  is to close the gap in the Pumpkinvine between CR 33 and CR 20 and the gap between 850W and downtown Shipshewana. As a result, we are not lobbying for or offering to help pay for the paving of State Road 4 to County Road 28 until we close those gaps in the trail.

That being said, it is useful to consider the advantages and disadvantages of that 1.75 mile limestone section, since it is likely to be with us for some years to come.

Advantages of limestone:
  1. Runners and walkers like the limestone because it is more forgiving than asphalt. The constant pounding of a runner's knee
  2. It looks more natural than asphalt.
  3. The wheels of a bicycle make noise on limestone so that walkers are likely to hear an approaching cyclist from behind.
  4. It does not buckle from tree roots.
  5. It repairs easily.
There are, of course, disadvantages to limestone.
  1. It does not allow for rollerblades thereby eliminating one user group.
  2. It is more difficult for people in wheelchairs.
  3. It can get quite rutted in the spring from moisture.
  4. It can wash out in spots from heavy rain, causing bumps.
  5. The limestone can coat a bike making it necessary to clean the bike more often.
  6. It takes more energy to ride than asphalt, and that is a problem for children and less experienced riders.

The advantages of limestone

People frequently ask me when the limestone section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between State Road 4 and County Road 28 will be paved. That decision is in the hands of the Goshen Park and Recreation Department, not the Friends of the Pumpkinvine. From conversations I’ve had with Sheri Howland, the park director, I know that she’s open to the idea, but at the moment, there isn’t money in the park department’s budget to redo the surface in asphalt, which could cost from $150,000 to $200,000. Since all departments of city government are under severe financial strain, it is unlikely that they will pave that section in the near future.

Likewise, the Friends of the Pumpkinvine have other priorities. Our time and money are going toward closing the gap in the Pumpkinvine between CR 33 and CR 35. (Donations welcome at

So while I favor paving this 1.75-mile limestone section of trail to make it consistent with the rest of the Pumpkinvine and would even consider having the Friends of the Pumpkinvine help pay for it after we close the gaps in the trail, I think in the meantime it is worth mentioning some of the advantages of limestone.

1.      Limestone does not crack from the freeze-thaw cycle of winter, buckle from invasive tree roots or have edges that crack from lack of support – all shortcomings of asphalt. We already see bumps in asphalt sections of the Pumpkinvine between mile markers 4.5 and 5 that are only six years old and severe cracking east of County Road 127, but the limestone section is as smooth as it was when it was laid in 1999, 16 years ago.

2.      Most people would say that limestone is a more natural surface than asphalt, and as a result it makes the trail look less like a road. As a result, it enhances our ability to enjoy the vegetation, small animals, birds and trees along the trail, the stimulation of our senses that we experience in nature. 

3.      Limestone is more forgiving surface than asphalt for the joints of walkers and runners. Most joggers and walkers prefer limestone to asphalt because it is easier on the knees and feet, which means they have fewer injuries and can potential run more each year and run more years.

4.      Both bikers and walkers make much more noise on limestone than they do on asphalt, so that others ahead on the trail can hear them coming. Since many bikers don’t bother to sound a bell to alert walkers that they are about to be passed, that noise functions as a natural “bell,” alerting walkers to an approach bike. Thus, with limestone-created noise, there is less chance for the bikers to hit the walkers who don’t move or surprise the walkers who do move in the wrong direction and cause a collision. 

Of course, limestone has disadvantages. It does not accommodate rollerbladers, is a more difficult surface for pushing or propelling wheel chairs and can get very rutted in the spring from the melting snow. In dry weather, it can coat a bike with fine dust and in wet weather the coating is worse. Still, it works very well most of the time.

On an historical note, it is worth remembering that the Goshen Park and Recreation Department built this section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail with limestone because they did not have enough money to do it in asphalt. Along with the Friends of the Pumpkinvine, they believed that the best way to counter the criticism of trail opponents who were claiming the trail would be a magnet for crime was to build a demonstration section to show what the an actual trail would look like and the type of people who would use it. Building that demonstration section of trail was more important than waiting for the funds to build it with an asphalt surface.

I think they made the right decision. The attitude of the community changed after people saw what the trail could be, making extending it to Middlebury and Shipshewana possible. Without the limestone section to demonstrate an actual trail, there wouldn’t be asphalt sections today.