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City leading state with trail growth

May 30th, 2013

News Coverage:

Published: May 30, 2013 3:00 a.m.

City leading state with trail growth

Dan Stockman | The Journal Gazette

FORT WAYNE – The city’s trails are more popular than ever and continue to expand faster than any trail system in the state, Board of Public Works members heard Wednesday.

Trails manager Dawn Ritchie told the board that Visit Fort Wayne officials say information about trails is regularly one of the top requests and that many groups using Grand Wayne Center build trail activities into their events.

Ritchie also said the myth that trails hurt property values has been disproved in studies, including one by the National Parks Service that found that, nationally, recreational trails increase property values by an average of 3 percent.

She told the board about a Realtor who helped a family moving to Fort Wayne find a temporary home that happened to be next to a trail. When they were ready to look for a permanent home to buy, they refused to look at any that were not on a trail.

“Our parks and our trails definitely improve the quality of life in Fort Wayne,” Ritchie said.

She said Fort Wayne now has 70.5 miles of trails, with an additional three miles under construction, more than any city in the state, including Indianapolis.

The city has installed counters on several trails to gauge their use; last year they tallied 483,000 people on the trails, including a peak of 62,363 in April. Officials hope to top 500,000 users this year.

Ritchie said the city’s efforts have brought in $12 million from the state and federal governments for trail construction in the last six years, and that the system continues to grow. Current projects include connecting Shoaff Park to IPFW that, thanks to a temporary gravel section, could be complete this year, with a permanent paved trail to come.

Officials are also making plans for the Six Mile Trail, which would follow Trier Ditch from the trail system’s southern terminus at Tillman Park to its eastern terminus in New Haven, creating a 26-mile loop around southeast Fort Wayne.

Work is also beginning on the Pufferbelly Trail, which will eventually stretch 80 miles from Pokagon State Park in Steuben County to Ouabache State Park near Bluffton.

“We want to connect neighborhoods and make our community as safe as possible for pedestrians,” Ritchie said.

The city is also working on a comprehensive trail plan, which it hopes to have adopted by the fall. Ritchie said she wants public input on the plan and encouraged people to call 427-6002 with ideas for the trails.

“I’d love to hear what you have to say,” she said. “We always want to hear your input.”

For more information on the trails, including maps, go to www.fortwayneparks.org and www.fwtrails.org.

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