Over it 100 year history, the Pumpkinvine corridor became tree lined — not something that happens to every rail corridor by any means. A main line like the Norfolk Southern that goes through Elkhart County has almost no trees along it tracks. So it was one of the primary benefits of preserving this greenway that it was tree lined, which means it would offer shade to the walker or rider.
But the corridor of 1981 when the trains stopped running, which was heavily tree, lined has changed. Several farmers who thought they owned the corridor leveled the trees. In negotiating with them later to avoid long and expensive litigation, the Friends of the Pumpkinvine agreed to swap the original corridor for a path around their fields. The result is that the current five miles is a mixture of a tree-lined greenway and open areas that go through land planted in corn and soybeans.
I was thinking about this change as I rode the trail this week. The transition from the open areas to the cool shade of the trees was dramatic. It felt like the temperature dropped 10 degrees when I entered the shaded sections from the open areas. On a hot day, the shade was a great relief.
Yet the open areas had interesting things to see as well. Each time I ride through the fields I see the change in the height of the corn. It makes me think more about the source of my food and wonder about the well being of the farmers in general. Those open spaces are also an opportunity for us to plant native grasses and wildflowers, which Elkhart County Parks has done in several places. Right now they are spectacular.
So, although the Pumpkinve isn’t a continuous tree-lined greenway, it has variety that is visually stimulating and open spaces that make me appreciate the shaded areas even more. — John Yoder