Fishing Line Trail filling in between Rome City, Kendallville
By Steve Garbacz | KPC Media - The News Sun
It’s quiet and picturesque, with trees and brush curling up over the path creating a shady, arched walkway.
The 10-foot asphalt path is dusted with leaves that have begun to drop off the trees. Black and brown woolly tiger moth caterpillars inch across parts of the path. In the distance the end of the path where the canopy opens back up to the road looks like a doorway made of light.
Dr. Terry Gaff of Noble Trails Inc. comments that he doesn’t see any acorns or walnuts on the pavement, so there’s no tripping hazard.
This section of the Fishing Line Trail west of Angling Road in Kendallville was just completed this year, one piece of many that has fallen into place in 2018. There’s still some gaps in the trail along the old railroad bed Rome City and Kendallville — one is at the end of the walk as we arrive at Sawyer Road and look across to a pile of brush standing on the other side — but the project that once felt like a 13-mile dream is rapidly becoming a reality.
“All of it is a work in progress,” Gaff said of the trail, although the pieces that are done are already being used. “I have yet to be on the trail and not met someone else.”
The Fishing Line Trail, which will eventually connect downtown Rome City to the Kendallville Outdoor Recreation Complex on Allen Chapel Road in Kendallville, is about two-thirds done, Gaff said, with a large chunk of that progress being made this year.
Noble Trails has been able to complete three more sections of the trail this year. One of those — the one Gaff and Noble Trails board member Dennis Nartker showed off this week — is a 1-mile stretch between Angling Road near the Lamplighter apartment complex to Sawyer Road. But sections between Friendly Village and Riley Road in Kendallville and from C.R. 600E to C.R. 800N have also been completed.
The board is closing in on being able to get more trail to connect Angling Road to Riley Road and also to connect C.R. 600E to Sawyer Road.
The trail project has been talked about since about 2005, Gaff said, but momentum really picked up in about the last three years. It started with paving about 1 1/2 miles starting from the Gene Stratton Porter site in Rome City, sort of as a demo, to show the community and possible partners what the trail could look like.
It’s taken a flurry of fundraising, as well as support from local governments, foundations and organizations and winning a large northeast Indiana “Road to One Million” grant to help it along.
To date, Noble Trails has raised and invested roughly $800,000 into the project, board treasurer Deanna Spidel said. By the time it’s done, the trail could be about $1.5 million total, she said.
In places where Noble Trails is building new walkways, it’s establishing a 10-foot-wide asphalt path, with 1 foot of berm on either side, Gaff said. But the path also follows some local roads — in the Angling-to-Sawyer branch, part of the trail is along the new blacktop of low-traffic Stonebraker Drive — and also piggybacks on existing sidewalks in Kendallville in some places, too.
Noble Trails has had excellent relationships with local contractors, who have been available and willing to come out and lay down pathway at great prices, Gaff said. The trails are new now and Noble Trails is still in construction mode, but the organization is also preparing for long-term maintenance of its infrastructure.
“It’s built like a road,” Gaff said. “We know there’s going to be some maintenance.”
Part of the reason the Fishing Line Trail has been able to get built at decent prices is that the organization decided not to pursue any kind of funding from federal sources, Spidel said. Federal grants come with significantly more requirements — for example, adding railings if there is a 3-foot drop off the side of the path — which would have added a lot of cost to the program, she said.
“It’s very costly,” Spidel said. “I think we’ve paid API (Construction) over half a million dollars this year to get stuff paved. We’ve had to buy signage and insurance on all the stuff, and we had to purchase the properties. We’re really very fortunate in that we’ve gotten this far.”
Despite that, the Fishing Line Trail is getting built for a lot less than anyone originally anticipated and efforts to get land and funding have gone well, if not without a few bumps here and there.
Noble Trails can’t say exactly when the Fishing Line Trail will be fully complete. That always has been and will continue to “be dependent on the funds,” Gaff said. But 2018 was a productive year and more construction looks likely in 2019.
As the Fishing Line Trail has gone from dream to reality, now the long-range dreams consist of expanding it further out in the county. Maybe some day in the future a trail extends from Kendallville to Avilla, or from Rome City up to LaGrange, Gaff said.
One effort currently underway combines fundraising with decoration. Noble Trails is placing decorative, engraved stones every quarter mile, recognizing donors who have invested $25,000 or more into the project. In late August, the organization placed the first one of those, recognizing the City of Kendallville with a stone east of Riley Road.
There’s also some talk about adding benches to the trail for people to rest on, with the possibility of tying that into fundraising too, although it’s still in the discussion phase.
For the time being, Noble Trails will continue to make progress on the Fishing Line Trail the way it has for the last three years — piece by piece.
Where to get on the trail?
The Fishing Line Trail between Rome City and Kendallville isn't complete, but people can still use sections of the trail that are done. Here's some suggestions on where to hop on:
Gene Stratton Porter site, Rome City: Where the trail first started, there's a complete section all the way down to C.R. 450E. After that, you have to get on the roadway, but if you follow C.R. 800N a little, you'll connect with the next section.
C.R. 600E: There's a parking lot located on the east side of the road a little north of U.S. 6, a great place for unloading a bike. From there, you can head west on the trail up toward C.R. 800N.
Angling Road, Kendallville: Across from the Lamplighter, Noble Trails has a few parking spaces at the Streb Apartments. There's a 1-mile section from that point to Sawyer Road, good for a brisk job or nice walk there and back.