Trails seek Regional Cities funds
Want $1.78 million for additional 7.87 miles
By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette
Officials of Fort Wayne-area trails organizations today will seek $1.78 million for trail improvements from the Northeast Indiana Regional Cities Initiative.
Dawn Ritchie, the Greenways manager, and Kent Castleman, executive director of the nonprofit Fort Wayne Trails Inc. will present the proposal at a meeting of the Regional Cities’ board at 2 p.m. at Embassy Theatre.
Castleman said the two organizations are seeking funds for an additional 7.87 miles of trail in four trail stretches within city limits. The trail segments would be part of the Indiana Visionary Trails network that seeks to ultimately connect Pokagon State Park, Angola and Oubache State Park in Bluffton.
That trail last week was renamed the Poka-bache Connector.
At the same time, the regional trail network for the 11-county northeast Regional Cities’ territory was renamed Northeast Indiana United Trails, Castleman said.
The funding request comes on the heels of trail use headed toward record territory, officials said.
A record-high number of people used Fort Wayne-area trails in the third quarter of 2016, which ended Sept. 30. More than 24,000 more people were on those trails this year (188,711) compared with the previous record year of 2012 (154,828). More than 40,000 more third-quarter users were recorded this year than in 2015.
Officials said one explanation is a combination of more miles of trail and more trail user-counting cameras than in 2012.
In 2016, trails added in the city included McKinnie Avenue, Covington Road, Liberty Mills Road, Renaissance Pointe, Dupont Road and Diebold Road. Trail user-counting cameras have expanded to 14, including some posted outside city limits.
Another reason the number of users might be up over last year is that heavy rain in 2015 not only deterred outdoor recreation but also closed some trails for several weeks, Castleman said.
Weather this year “has been excellent,” he said.
In an email, Ritchie added: “Good weather always increases usage – but I think the tremendous growth we’re seeing this year shows that residents are embracing our trails.”
The 22 percent growth in the third quarter followed an all-time record month in June when 73,226 residents were on city trails. The previous record for June was 55,432, which was set in 2012.
As of the end of September, the 463,000 people using the trails in 2016 was on pace to exceed the previous 12-month high of about 480,000, again set in 2012.
The numbers should prove beneficial in seeking more trail funding, Castleman said.
“An increase in trail usage is directly correlated to a need for more trails,” he said. “It is our hope that the funders will look favorably upon our proposal.”
One other trail request, for about $255,000 for the Little River Trail project in Huntington, was granted by the Regional Cities’ board in August. That request was for about 20 percent of the project’s $1.05 million cost for an 0.8-mile trail, pavilion, signs and other improvements.
The board is distributing to individual projects a $42 million grant to the region from the state’s Regional Cities Initiative in response to northeast Indiana’s Road to One Million project.