Helping Make Connections

02 Oct Helping Make Connections

This Connection Helps Make Our Elkhart County Community More Vibrant

We believe, along with so many people in our community, that having a vibrant community, having a “quality of place,” improves community pride and overall life satisfaction.

The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail provides key community connections that help make life better in Elkhart County. Thanks to the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, bicyclists from Elkhart, Dunlap or Goshen can ride trails that take them along the old Pumpkin Vine Railroad through Middlebury and to Shipshewana.

The trail is not even done yet and has already gained national recognition for the beautiful, quiet and safe path which runs northeast from Goshen, which itself the nexus of a variety of bicycle and pedestrian paths that lead down to Waterford Mills and up into Elkhart.

The respected Pumpkinvine 17.6-mile trail is almost complete along the rail bed, and we believe in this connection, this community amenity, enough to commit to closing the only gap in the trail in Elkhart County. That gap right now takes bicyclists off the trail and along a 1.5-mile stretch that follows roads between C.R. 33 and C.R. 20 between Middlebury and Goshen.

The Community Foundation committed $150,000 a year for two years in matching Vibrant Community Grants to challenge the Friends to raise the money necessary to close the gap in the trail. As a nonprofit group, the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail has been working with landowners and has a tentative route laid out once they’re able to raise the entire amount with our help.

When it’s done, families will be able to safely enjoy the entire trail. Our funding will help take them off roads and onto a wooded path that intersects streams and passes by ponds. It’s a one-of-a-kind way to experience our Amish neighbors, both those using the trail and those who live in a pastoral setting on either side.

Hundreds of people use the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail each day, and every year, up to 80,000 people use parts of the trail. Less than a year ago, the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail was named “Trail of the Month” by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a national group.

While the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is a nice amenity in and of itself, it’s also part of that larger network in the area. Each trail has demonstrated a value by itself, but as a network it may offer a greater value than the sum of its parts by improving the vibrancy of our community.

That sort of collaborative, community-changing impact is important to the Community Foundation. When it’s done, the Pumpkinvine will provide a key link in the bicycle and pedestrian network of trails between Shipshewana, Middlebury, Goshen and Elkhart, increasing our community’s connections and vibrancy.