Mapping a Future with Fully Connected Trails

Elkhart County’s trails and pathways wind through the community, affording runners, cyclists and walkers the opportunity to enjoy nature as they exercise or commute.

When the various trails connect so that one can move across the entire community safely, the community is tighter-knit and even stronger.

As the Placemaking Committee of the Community Foundation began working with the emphasis on trails and parks for Community Investment Grants, it wanted to bring people across the community together to do more planning for the future. 

Rider on the Pumpkinvine
A project is underway to knit together Elkhart County’s network of beloved trails.

The Community Foundation and its Placemaking Committee work to create open communities in Elkhart County which inspire, attract, engage, and connect people, to enrich their living experience. Pathways, trails and parks, as well as vibrant downtowns, are key building blocks of this work.

The Community Foundation enlisted Yard & Company to help with the initiative dubbed Connect in Elkhart County. The firm based in Cincinnati solves problems with design, experience management and development. In Elkhart County, the problem is that the trails and pathways are disconnected and people are not fully aware of how to make the most of them.

“All of us are working towards the same goal from different angles, which is what makes this planning initiative so exciting.”

— Brittany Short
President of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

Yard & Co. spent four days in June biking, driving and listening in Elkhart County and is helping the Community Foundation create a plan to engage the community. This countywide planning process will include gathering and testing ideas, unique group rides, and demonstration projects. “Our amazing community has a strong network of trails and pathways and we can’t wait to gather more people from across our county to discuss how to better knit them together and extend them into more neighborhoods,” said Becky Bontreger, chairwoman of Placemaking Committee.

Riders on the trail
The team from Yard & Co. has been gathering information on Elkhart County’s trails, often firsthand on e-bikes.

Networks and pathways help shape a community and connecting them and the people who use them is an area of focus for the Community Foundation’s grantmaking and inspiring generosity of others. “We believe having well-connected trails and paths in Elkhart County will increase the quality of life for Elkhart County and having a master plan across the county will help direct investments to make this possible,” said Ray Caldwell, the program officer for the Community Foundation who focuses on placemaking and is managing this project.

Local public officials and others working to improve trails in our county are joining the planning process. “All of us are working towards the same goal from different angles, which is what makes this planning initiative so exciting,” said Brittany Short, president of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. “We want to see Elkhart County become an example of how communities thrive when they consider active transportation in their infrastructure planning.

You can sign up at The website will have updates and be a hub for the plan.


This story appeared in the 2021 Annual Report.

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