A generous community built this trail
Oct. 9, 2013
It’s an honor to represent the Friends of the Pumpkinvine at this ribbon cutting. Our volunteer organization has championed the rails-to-trails concept for this old corridor for over 20 years, and I’m thrilled today to see two more sections officially opened. It was 20 years ago, October 1993, that we signed a purchase agreement with Penn Central to buy the Pumpkinvine corridor, and the closing was in December of that year. When funding for the corridor was in place, we donated the land to the appropriate public agency.
Between the purchase and donation, we were busy. There were title searches of every corridor parcel, petitions and resolutions of support, letter-writing campaigns to public officials, creation of a website, fundraising letters and dinners, consultations with trail experts, visits to dozens of trails, travel to rails-to-trails conferences, walks with supporters to show off the corridor, news releases, 60 newsletters, a dozen brochures, eight lawsuits, three meditations, two additional purchases of land, and numerous negotiations for fencing.
Given all the hurdles in this 20-year marathon, what sustained the vision to recycle an old railroad corridor into a linear park? Many factors were involved, but the key was the generosity of people in Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana. We discovered huge numbers of people who believed that recycling an abandoned railroad into shared public space would improve the communities’ quality of life. Rails-to-trails isn’t just about creating a place for a few bicyclists, joggers, dog walkers or roller bladders to enjoy; it’s about creating shared public space where people can interact on a human scale, where it’s possible to talk to friends as you ride, walk as a family in nature and ride to work off road.
I can illustrate that community generosity with one story. South of Sunrise Lane is a section of the old corridor where the railroad received the land as an easement. That meant that the land reverted to the adjacent landowners when the railroad abandoned service. Consequently, there was a gap in our ownership of the corridor, too, when we purchased it. But, fortunately for all of us, one family owned all the land on the west side of the Pumpkinvine in the easement area, and they had a vision for the possibilities of a linear park on the Pumpkinvine corridor. They were Ike and Mary Heign. Sometime after Ike’s untimely death, we approached Mary and her family about buying their half of the corridor, and they said yes. What a gift to the community! Without that section, the trail stops and Sunrise Lane; there is no link to U.S 20 on the old corridor.
Someday soon there will be recognition of their vision on the trail in a section named for Ike Heign. To me, they are true heroes of the day.
I wish there were time to tell more stories about how generous this community has been with this project, but just let me say of our supporters, on behalf of the Friends’ board, thank you for the many ways you have enabled the creation of this trail. Thank you for your gifts of time, talent, money, and words of encouragement. You are the generous community that has created an awesome linear park.