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.