Group blazes new trails
County opens up routes to walkers previously closed
By DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette
LEO-CEDARVILLE – Dozens of hikers gathered Sunday at Metea County Park for the Allen County Trailblazers kickoff event.
The event near Leo-Cedarville in northern Allen County was meant to celebrate the start of the sixth annual Allen County Trailblazers hiking season, said Bob Dispenza, park and education manager for the Allen County Parks Department. As part of the program, which runs Sept. 1 to Nov. 30, a list of 15 trails operated by several agencies throughout the county is compiled. Hikers who complete at least 10 of the listed trails by Nov. 30 will receive a medallion, which can be attached to a walking stick. Each trail is between 1 and 3 miles in length.
“We have some new trails that have never been open before,” Dispenza said. “We don’t do the same trails every year. Each year it changes, so there are different trails on the list.”
Dispenza said hiking is beneficial for residents not only because it promotes exercise, but also increases a resident’s knowledge of natural areas. Over the past five years, Trailblazers has had about 2,000 participants who have hiked a collective 10,000 miles of trail, Dispenza said.
“It’s making a difference, I think, because it’s getting people out and hiking,” Dispenza said. “Then they can go to these places when it’s not Trailblazers at different times of the year and see different things than they saw this time of year.”
The participating agencies are the Allen County Parks Department, ACRES Land Trust, the Little River Wetlands Project, New Haven Parks and Recreation and Fort Wayne Trails.
“ACRES appreciates the opportunity to be part of Trailblazers and encourages residents to enjoy their natural areas,” said Lettie Haver, outreach manager, for ACRES Land Trust. “Being able to partner with all of these groups is a useful and powerful component of the program because all of these entities are looking at different aspects of community service in natural areas.”
More information about the Allen County Trailblazers can be found at allencountytrailblazers.org.