Connecting neighborhoods moved a mile forward as Mayor Tom Henry and representatives from the Indiana Department of Transportation, Northwest Allen County Trails and the Greenway Consortium celebrated the completion of the first mile of the 13-mile Pufferbelly Trail.
“Statistics show, 25% of all trips in this country are less than a mile in length. People do want to walk or bike for these short trips, but they want to do so knowing they will be safe. Turning abandoned railways into trails is a great initiative that allows us to take a Brownfield and turn it into active transportation”, said Mayor Tom Henry, City of Fort Wayne.
Joining Mayor Henry at a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completed mile was INDOT District Deputy Commissioner, Bob Alderman and members of the volunteer organizations Northwest Allen Trails and the Greenway Consortium, and City staff from the Division of Public Works and the Parks and Recreation Department.
Rails to Trails
The Pufferbelly Trail is Fort Wayne’s portion of the State of Indiana’s Visionary Trail proposed to go from Pokagon State Park in Steuben County to Ouabache State Park in Bluffton. The full length of that trail will be approximately 80 miles.
Fort Wayne’s Pufferbelly Trail uses the right-of-way of the Fort Wayne to Jackson, Michigan to Saginaw, Michigan Railroad. The rail line began in 1868 and later became part of the New York Central system in 1880. The railroad operated as the Penn Central in the 1970s and ceased operation in 1976. Two years later the tracks were removed.
The 13-mile Pufferbelly Trail will run from Lawton Park downtown to Franke Park and on to Northwest Fort Wayne crossing Washington Center Road, Carroll Road and finally up to the north Allen County boundary line.
One Mile, 15 Jobs, New Parking and Playground
The completed one-mile of the Pufferbelly Trail goes from Wallen Road to the Parkview YMCA. It trail was constructed using $1,150,241 in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The project supported approximately 15 jobs during its design and construction phase.
To assist trail users and enhance the project, the YMCA constructed a playground and parking lot near the trail.
12 Miles to Go, Funding Needed
The Pufferbelly Trail, following the old rail line, will be an impressive addition to Fort Wayne’s trail system. Those include a section from Lawton Park to Franke Park and Fernhill Avenue and the section from Dupont Road to Carroll Road.
Both Northwest Allen Trails and the Greenway Consortium are fundraising to complete the next 12 miles of the Pufferbelly Trail. At the ribbon cutting ceremony, business owner, Bob Mann presented Mayor Henry with a check for $7,842 to be used for the project. His business, Summit City Bicycle and Fitness, held a “Sales for Trails” event in September to raise money for the project.