A serendipitous discovery saved the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail

rcarrico Trail Notes

Land ownership disputes dominated development of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail in early stages of the project. Settlements with neighbors sometimes involved trading parts of the railroad corridor for strips of land around the perimeters of farm fields. Friends hired Blake Doriot to conduct an especially difficult land survey of the railroad corridor between County Roads 127 and 26 in Elkhart County. Legal descriptions were needed to prepare deeds for the land exchanges.

A photo showing the route of the trail over the original railroad corridor

The path of the Pumpkin Vine Railroad is visible as a light band on the cultivated fields pointed out in this photo by the two green arrows. The path of the trail is the light yellow line.

Track maps, created by the former railroad operators, provided vital data for the land survey. However, this section of the corridor had a couple curves that were difficult to define. The track maps called out reference points that were destroyed earlier when neighbors farmed across the corridor. The usable track map data described property lines that misaligned with adjacent known property lines.

Friends spent more than two years searching for better data. For instance they visited railroad collectors in a search for track maps with the critical data. Then a clerk at the Elkhart County Surveyor’s Office’s was searching for a document he needed for his work when he noticed a survey that he thought might be important for the Pumpkinvine project. It was a survey conducted by Weaver in the mid-1940s. The Weaver survey installed a pipe in a fence line hundreds of feet south of the railroad corridor and specified the location of the corridor relative to the pipe. The survey also called out a railroad mileage sign within the railroad corridor in the woods east of County Road 127. The concrete sign had crumbled flush to the soil and reinforcement rebar were bent down flush so it was not readily visible under the woods liter. The railroad corridor boundary was also specified relative to the sign. The Weaver survey provided the additional information needed to completely define the railroad corridor boundaries between the two county roads. If the Weaver survey had not been discovered construction of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail could have been delayed for an unknown number of years.