No one needs to convince area residents of the value of trails. Beginning with a Fort Wayne Park Master Plan developed by planner Angie Derheimer O'Neill in 1974, the Rivergreenway and connecting trails in the regional trail network now cover 120 miles and continue to grow. Eventually, they could connect with a proposed 3,700-mile trail stretching from West Virginia to Washington state.
The Great American Rail-Trail envisions linking 125 existing trails with about 90 new connectors to create the near-nationwide route. Indiana would be one of the 12 states traversed by the trail, using about 110 miles of existing trail and adding about 115. The proposed route runs west and south of Allen County, incorporating the Nickel Plate Trail from Rochester to Kokomo and the Cardinal Greenway, now stretching 62 miles from Marion to Richmond. There's currently a 14-mile gap between Converse and Bunker Hill.
The Great American Rail-Trail reaches nearly 50 million people within 50 miles of the proposed route. Rail-trails convert abandoned rail lines for use as pedestrian and bike trails. The Pufferbelly Trail on the city's north side is an example of a converted rail-trail. The Cardinal Greenway is a former CSX Transportation line.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources has partnered with the rail-trail planners to assist in completion of the national route. Funds from Gov. Eric Holcomb's Next Level Trails program have been used in some of the land acquisition needed to close gaps in the state's portion of the trail.