Statement issued Wednesday by Bob Dispenza, park and education manager at Allen County Parks:
Allen County has an array of incredible natural areas, parks and nature preserves to serve the population with opportunities for hiking. All provide a setting for the fitness movement, places for family fun and exercise, and ways to address the physical fitness shortcomings of us all.
We all have common problems as parks, land trusts and recreation agencies: an area population that needs more exercise, the need for more visitors at our facilities, the need for additional funding and better publicity, and the need to educate visitors about the sustainable ways to treat natural resources. Cooperating community parks, conservation groups and resource management agencies propose the “Allen County Trailblazers” (ACT) Community Hiking Program, which could help address those problems.
Cooperating agencies have assembled a list of about 15 trails at various sites, each about 1 mile in length. Hikers who complete 10 of the listed trails will receive an award (see below). Forms can be downloaded online or picked up at agency offices after completing a short sign-up form so the number of participants can be tracked. The Trailblazers form will have space for an agency representative to sign next to each trail and a space for the date hiked, along with participant contact information. Cooperating agency logos and contact information are included. The back of the form will have directions to the parks areas where the trails are located. These trails will change on a rotating basis over several years. Any participating agency staff member can sign the form. This is primarily an honors system, and any agency representative can sign any space on the form as long as the date hiked is filled out. The form is turned in to obtain the reward below.
Program reward is a bronze medallion that can be mounted on a hiking stick. A sticker to attach to the walking stick would have the logos of all participating agencies and be included. Sticks will be available at cost (about $2). Increased funding from new sponsors will allow more people to participate, and possibly add more to the award. Awards may be picked up at Metea or Fox Island County Park Nature Centers, the New Haven Parks office and the Fort Wayne Parks office. This program will run from September 1 to November 30, with last awards given out by January 30.
Facebook page is Allen County Trailblazers. Like this and find additional information here. This page is active now.
The website is www.allencountytrailblazers.org where you can go to register eventually, donate to help out and get the latest news. This is still under construction.
This program is modeled after the Fall Hiking Spree in Summit County, Ohio. Successfully offered to residents there for 47 years by the local Metro Parks district, this program serves thousands of participants every year – 14,000 reported for 2009.
Allen County Trailblazers
Mission: To encourage and promote exposure to the outdoors, provide opportunities for physical fitness and mental wellness, and to increase the awareness and support of all participating agencies.
Allen County Parks
Mission: To establish and manage a permanent park system incorporating conservation, education, outdoor values and nature preservation, and to provide recreational opportunities for the people of Allen County within this structure.
ACRES Land Trust
Mission: Dedicated to preserving and managing natural areas since 1960, and to educate about the significance of protecting these natural areas.
Little River Wetlands Project
Mission: To restore and protect wetlands in the Little River watershed southwest of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and to provide educational opportunities that encourage individuals to be good stewards of wetlands and other natural ecosystems.
New Haven Parks and Recreation
Mission: To develop and maintain quality parks, including natural wooded areas, to provide facilities and programs for people of all ages, and to plan for the future recreation facility and activity requirements to serve the year-round recreation needs and interests of the community.
Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation
Mission: To enhance the quality of life in Fort Wayne by providing positive opportunities for leisure time and by being stewards of our park lands, facilities, public trees, and other resources entrusted to our care.
Fort Wayne Trails
Mission: To improve the quality of life for area citizens through the development of a regional multi-use trail system.”
Sponsors (so far):
- Fox Island Alliance
- Friends of Metea