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The Journal Gazette

  • Kevin Okleshen, who lives in the Hearthstone addition off Wallen Road, breaks in the newest section of the Pufferbelly Trail on Wednesday. (Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette)

Thursday, November 29, 2018 1:00 am

Newest Pufferbelly section opens

Key connector for trails; city says it will plow

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

With flying snowflakes, a brisk wind and a temperature of 21 degrees as a backdrop, a group of more than three dozen officials and trail enthusiasts gathered Wednesday morning to dedicate a crucial piece of the Pufferbelly Trail in Fort Wayne.

The newly completed two-mile stretch links Washington Center Road with Wallen Road. The dedication ceremony took place at the eastern edge of the trail's new portion, just east of Cookie Cottage.

Dawn Ritchie, the city's trails and greenways manager, said the trail following a former railroad right of way will allow residents of the city's north side to walk, run or cycle from a spot near their homes to downtown and numerous other destinations.

“More than 3,700 residents live within a half-mile of this trail,” she said.

Fort Wayne Trails presented Mayor Tom Henry with a check for $219,792 toward trail development at Wednesday's ribbon-cutting, while the Indiana Regional Development Authority presented a check for $405,971, the third of four installments of a $1.8 million pledge from the Regional Cities Initiative.

But it was news that the city plans to plow snow on primary and secondary trails after storms drop three inches or more that brought out a celebratory whoop from attendees.

So did an announcement that Cookie Cottage owners plan to put in a picnic table for trail users.

Although trail usage slows during the winter, “Believe it or not, people do use trails in the winter,” Ritchie said. Cleared trails should mean higher usage, she said.  

The city's right-of-way department will now plow an additional 35 miles of trails, Ritchie said. The city Parks and Recreation Department already plows about 28 miles of greenway trails; schools, universities and businesses plow between 10 and 15 trail miles.

Among destinations now accessible because of the trail completion plus existing sidewalks are Northrop High School, Shawnee Middle School and Lincoln Elementary School, Ritchie said.

The new trail section also connects several neighborhoods on the north and northwest side to Smith Field, Salomon Farm Park, Parkview Family YMCA and the soon-to-be-paved Dupont Road Trail.

The new trail portion also connects to sidewalks on Washington Center Road – sidewalks that already connect to others along Washington Center Road and Clinton Street. 

About a half-mile of land for the new trail portion was bought at a tax sale in 2016 by Huntertown resident Richard Andres, a trail enthusiast and railroad buff, for $2,500. He said the land was donated to the city for trail use in January. 

About $50,000 of the money from Fort Wayne Trails will go to pedestrian crossing lights at Wallen, Cook and Ludwig roads along the trail's new segment, and $150,000 will fund acquisition of right of way for a section of the Covington Road trail from Hadley to Getz roads.

Design of that trail, which will help connect southwest Fort Wayne's Aboite Trails to Time Corners shopping center is to begin next year, said Kent Castleman, executive director of Fort Wayne Trails.

Construction should begin in 2021, he said. 

About $20,000 of the Fort Wayne Trails money went to finishing touches along the St. Joseph Pathway on Fort Wayne's north side near the Purdue Fort Wayne soccer fields and The Plex.

The newly finished stretch of the Pufferbelly, whose name comes from a slang term for a steam locomotive, will eventually make that trail part of a trail system that supporters hope will one day link Angola and Bluffton.

rsalter@jg.net