The advantages of limestone

friendsPumpkinvine News

People frequently ask me when the limestone section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between State Road 4 and County Road 28 will be paved. That decision is in the hands of the Goshen Park and Recreation Department, not the Friends of the Pumpkinvine. From conversations I’ve had with Sheri Howland, the park director, I know that she’s open to the idea, but at the moment, there isn’t money in the park department’s budget to redo the surface in asphalt, which could cost from $150,000 to $200,000. Since all departments of city government are under severe financial strain, it is unlikely that they will pave that section in the near future.

Likewise, the Friends of the Pumpkinvine have other priorities. Our time and money are going toward closing the gap in the Pumpkinvine between CR 33 and CR 35. (Donations welcome at
So while I favor paving this 1.75-mile limestone section of trail to make it consistent with the rest of the Pumpkinvine and would even consider having the Friends of the Pumpkinvine help pay for it after we close the gaps in the trail, I think in the meantime it is worth mentioning some of the advantages of limestone.
1.      Limestone does not crack from the freeze-thaw cycle of winter, buckle from invasive tree roots or have edges that crack from lack of support – all shortcomings of asphalt. We already see bumps in asphalt sections of the Pumpkinvine between mile markers 4.5 and 5 that are only six years old and severe cracking east of County Road 127, but the limestone section is as smooth as it was when it was laid in 1999, 16 years ago.
2.      Most people would say that limestone is a more natural surface than asphalt, and as a result it makes the trail look less like a road. As a result, it enhances our ability to enjoy the vegetation, small animals, birds and trees along the trail, the stimulation of our senses that we experience in nature. 
3.      Limestone is more forgiving surface than asphalt for the joints of walkers and runners. Most joggers and walkers prefer limestone to asphalt because it is easier on the knees and feet, which means they have fewer injuries and can potential run more each year and run more years.
4.      Both bikers and walkers make much more noise on limestone than they do on asphalt, so that others ahead on the trail can hear them coming. Since many bikers don’t bother to sound a bell to alert walkers that they are about to be passed, that noise functions as a natural “bell,” alerting walkers to an approach bike. Thus, with limestone-created noise, there is less chance for the bikers to hit the walkers who don’t move or surprise the walkers who do move in the wrong direction and cause a collision. 
Of course, limestone has disadvantages. It does not accommodate rollerbladers, is a more difficult surface for pushing or propelling wheel chairs and can get very rutted in the spring from the melting snow. In dry weather, it can coat a bike with fine dust and in wet weather the coating is worse. Still, it works very well most of the time.
On an historical note, it is worth remembering that the Goshen Park and Recreation Department built this section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail with limestone because they did not have enough money to do it in asphalt. Along with the Friends of the Pumpkinvine, they believed that the best way to counter the criticism of trail opponents who were claiming the trail would be a magnet for crime was to build a demonstration section to show what the an actual trail would look like and the type of people who would use it. Building that demonstration section of trail was more important than waiting for the funds to build it with an asphalt surface.
I think they made the right decision. The attitude of the community changed after people saw what the trail could be, making extending it to Middlebury and Shipshewana possible. Without the limestone section to demonstrate an actual trail, there wouldn’t be asphalt sections today.