Progress Made on Final Remaining Gap in the Pumpkinvine
The long-anticipated closure of the Trail’s final gap is on the horizon, and 650 feet of greenway to the west of County Road 35 in Middlebury is nearing completion. However, Brittany Short, Friends of the Pumpkinvine Board President, says that getting to this point took taken longer than anticipated.
In October of 2020, Trail construction started and then stopped quickly. As tree and brush removal began, and the right-of-way was scanned for the presence of utility lines, a gas main was discovered, the existence of which had previously gone undetected. Excavators determined that the main was wrapped in tree roots. Those roots would need to be removed from the trail bed to create a stable base for asphalt. And contractors also realized that they could face large financial penalties if they were to damage the main during the extraction process. After months of negotiation with the utility company, the contractors settled on a hydro-excavation process, which also included the cutting of roots by hand. Also discovered were previously unidentified easement and utility encroachments. Ultimately these complications delayed the Fall’s construction plans until 2021.
“All the typical due diligence was done before we purchased this parcel, but those safe-guards aren’t perfect.” said Short. “Sometimes these things happen, as much as we’d prefer to avoid them”.
Some are asking why this short segment of trail began construction ahead of the rest of the gap, and the purchase agreement negotiations that took place mid-2020 are responsible.
“The Trial runs extremely close to two property lines; closer than any other segment of the Trail completed thus far. We have had to work very, very closely with the neighbors to ensure minimal impact on their properties. Last year, in order to close the deal on this final parcel, we had to get creative with our construction timeline.”
Short says that this section will remain closed until late 2022, when construction on the final connector is completed.
The process for completing this final gap has been different than other sections of the Pumpkinvine, because the Friends have taken on the full responsibility for the management of construction. Typically, the Friends negotiate the purchase of needed parcels of Trail corridor, manage land acquisition and oversee preliminary design and engineering. Once these phases of development are completed, the Friends transfer land and engineering plans to the appropriate Parks Department, which then manages the construction process. However, the intricate negotiations for this needed Trail parcel required the Friends to take on additional construction responsibilities.
The remaining 2550 feet in this gap between Elkhart County Roads 20 and 35 are on track to be constructed in 2022, although there are some details to resolve. For instance, wetlands exist, and extreme care is being exercised to ensure that the portion of the Trail running through this area will not negatively impact the plant and animal life dependent on it.
The issues referenced here, along with rising construction costs have increased the the project budget and additional fundraising will be needed.
“I’m proud of what the Board has accomplished, but it takes an entire community to get this kind of thing done; those doing the day-to-day work, those advocating on behalf of trails, and those investing in them. After 31 years, we are so close to having a completed Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, and I have every confidence that we will get there by the end of next year.”