Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Black-Eyed Susan along the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Mike Cloud & Penn Central

When I was reporting to the Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee recently about a rails-to-trails conference I attended, I was reminded of the first national rails-to-trails conference I attended in Baltimore in 1991. It was a fateful conference because it put our new Friends group in touch with the right person at Penn Central, the owner of the Pumpkinvine corridor.

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, although how he could tell that from the country roads it crossed is a mystery. In the end, it didn't matter because how we had a viable contact.

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 in December 1993.

Shaded and unshaded areas of the Pumpkinvine

One of the obvious features of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is that it has both shaded and unshaded areas. The shaded areas are where the trail is on the former railroad corridor. The railroad was built on a strip of land that was either 66 or 80 feet wide, and the railroad bed was only 10 feet wide in the center of that larger strip. Over the 100 plus years since the railroad was built, trees grew up in the areas beside the trail, resulting in the shaded areas we enjoy today.

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.