Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

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

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