Saturday, October 20, 2018
The conference had a workshop session called something like "Meet the railroad representatives," and naturally I wanted to attend. At the time, we had made contact by letter with Penn Central Corp., the owner of the Pumpkinvine corridor, but the person we were in contact with in the Cincinnati, Ohio office didn't seem all that interested in our small group of trail advocates. I went to the meeting hoping that personal contact would make a difference.
I went to the meeting room and looked around for someone from Penn Central. I don't remember how I found their area, but when I did, I introduced myself to Mike Cloud, the real-estate representative of Penn Central, and immediately asked him if they were interested in selling the Pumpkinvine. He said they were, and I was thrilled. We exchanged phone number (this was before email), and I invited him to come to Elkhart County to see the Pumpkinvine corridor, which he did sometime later. I took him around the county to look at the all the places the Pumpkinvine crossed a county road, and he agreed that it would make a fine trail.
It took over a year for us to negotiate a selling price of $100,000 -- all the result of that personal meeting in Baltimore. Mike Cloud came to Goshen for the closing. We handed him a check for $100,000 in a little ceremony at Schrock pavilion in Shanklin Park.
The unshaded areas are the result of the need to leave the old Pumpkinvine corridor and go around various farm fields because the railroad's title to the corridor was just an easement that reverted to the adjacent landowner when the railroad abandoned the line or because the corridor split a farm field and the Friends of the Pumpkinvine decided to allow the farmer to square off their field.
The trees along the Pumpkinvine provide us with shade from summer's sun and a windbreak all year round.
Riding the trail recently on a very windy day, I noticed a major difference in the degree to which the shaded areas blocked the wind, something I hadn't thought about before. In areas where the trail was shaded only by the trees on the corridor, I noticed a modest decrease in the wind. But where the trail went through a forest, the protection of that mass of trees was much greater. The 20 mph wind in those areas was hardly noticeable. I wish we had more of them.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
As I rode north, I passed a large group of Amish cyclists heading south, perhaps going to the Relief Sale. Coming back hours later, I passed three or four Amish groups, which is more than I normally see.
But the group that was most memorable was a family of six I saw east of the DQ. I was riding east when I saw three small kids coming toward me. The two youngest were on scooters with small wheels (the kind you stand on) and the oldest had a scooter bike with no pedals. Their parents were 30 yards behind them, the husband pushing a baby carriage with an infant inside. It was the type of scene that make the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail worthwhile -- young parents strolling along with their kids (not on screens) enjoying the freedom of the trail.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
The Heign family with memorial stone: Greg, Bob, Mary Lou, Randy and Jeff. The memorial is located along the Pumpkinvine, 100 yards south of Sun Rise Lane.
Sunday, September 9, 2018
When I wanted to show others what the Pumpkinvine corridor could become, I'd take them to the Kal-Haven for show-and-tell. The message was simply: "We can do this, too." My most memorable excursion of this type was with our state representative, Marvin Riegsecker. At a time when Indiana had zero miles of rails-to-trails, he was the only state elected official willing to look at one and become educated about their potential.
For a public meeting to discuss the desirability of the trail in Middlebury, I arranged for a Kal-Haven adjacent landowner and former leader of the opposition to the Kal-Haven, Steve Haddad, to come to Middlebury to explain how his attitude had changed from opposition to becoming a member of the Friends of the Kal-Haven board. When the Friends of the Pumpkinvine formed as a non-profit organization, we borrowed our bylaws from the Friends of the Kal-Haven. We also considered the idea of having a user fee to fund on-going maintenance of the Pumpkinvine like the Kal-Haven did.
So in many ways, the Kal-Haven was an inspiration for the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. However, in recent years, I've been hearing less positive stories about the Kal-Haven. When I met trail users from southern Michigan on the Pumpkinvine, I would ask them why they came to ride the Pumpkinvine when the Kal-Haven Trail was much closer, and they would say that they liked the asphalt surface of the Pumpkinvine better or that it was more interesting than the Kal-Haven.
Then I talked with a friend who had ridden the Kal-Haven recently, and he also said that he enjoyed the Pumpkinvine much more than the Kal-Haven. That comment led to a discussion of its weaknesses, most of which can be summed up in the phrase, lack of maintenance. He noted that there were sections that had been patched with large stones that made crossing the area with a narrow-tired bike difficult and dangerous. (He fell once in such a section.) He said the railroad cabooses that were used to distribute trail maps looked uncared for, and the trail itself had areas where grass was growing up in the middle -- an indication of little trail traffic.
My point in writing this blog about the Kal-Haven, which I haven't seen in 15 years, is to underscore the importance of maintaining a trail after it is built. I think it would be a tragedy for all the supporters who have helped build the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail to have it decline because we didn't have the vision to see how important maintenance is for the health of the trail. As we near the completion of the Pumpkinvine, it becomes increasingly important that we keep the importance of maintenance in mind -- plan for it, raise funds for it and talk about it as a priority.
Friday, August 17, 2018
Monday, August 6, 2018
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!
Monday, July 2, 2018
Friday, June 1, 2018
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
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!
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
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:
It is awe,
It does not shout;
Of understated beauty,
Of awe laid low.
Our back yard
Where we live,
Yet animated by the same
That form Yosemite’s vistas.
Friday, March 23, 2018
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
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.
From January to April, the crushed-limestone section of the PV from SR 4 to CR 28 is soft and as a result, becomes quite rutted from the bikes that ride the trail. Riding on it when it is this moist put a coat of dust on your bike frame, chain, derailleur, wheels, and usually your legs as well. And the ruts you create make it more difficult for subsequent riders to ride.
As as result, many of us avoid that section of the trail, and for those of us in Goshen, it means we just avoid riding on the PNT altogether because the cleanup involved is a hassle.
I suspect that walkers and runners also experience some of the same frustrations as the biker. Their shoes would become caked with dirt.