Photos of the newly installed signs on 2/19/2021; cement base covered in plastic to allow time to cure.
If you’re driving along County Road 20 southwest of Middlebury, or are adventurous enough to be pedaling by, you may notice a new sign has appeared along the Trail. This Donor Recognition sign has been in the works for several years, and this February during the snowiest of spells, our friends over at Premier Signs worked their magic.
One side recognizes those who invested in the completion of the Trail between County Roads 33 and 20, and the other, which is yet to be finished, will eventually recognize those who contribute to the completion of the Trail segment between County Roads 20 and 35.
A permanent stone base will be built once construction begins on the final segment of Trail. Etched into stonework in the base will be the names of those contributing $10,000 and more to Trail completion. This is expected to happen in Spring of 2022. But for now, those donors can be found on the sign near the base.
A heartfelt thank you goes out to all who’ve invested in this gift to our community.
“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”-Helen Keller
Every time I ride the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail over the trestle bridge spanning the Little Elkhart River in Middlebury, I’m reminded of how bad the area south of the bridge looked before it was turned into the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. I remember it as something like a dump, and I’m amazed to see how much better it looks today with the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail on the east side and Krider World’s Fair Garden on the west. They make an inviting and pleasing place to visit or ride through.
I’ve mentioned the transformation of the area south of the bridge to many of my riding companions over the years, but when I looked for a photo of the area to prove my point, I couldn’t find any in my Pumpkinvine picture collection.
Then today while scanning some old Pumpkinvine slides, I found one from 1989 that shows the area. The slide is indexed as “Looking south from Middlebury bridge.” You can also identify the area from two details in the photo. On the near left you see the railing of the bridge, and on the right is the windmill in Krider Garden. The area doesn’t look as junk-filled as I remember it, but keep in mind that it was another six years before the Pumpkinvine was built in this area, so it could have gotten worse in that time.
It is also important to note that this view of Krider World’s Fair Garden is prior to its renovation. It was not in good shape in 1989. Together the new Garden and Pumpkinvine result in a striking transformation of this Middlebury area.
In late summer Shipshewana received a donation of land need to extend the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail from County Road 850 W into town. Construction of one mile of trail is expected to start in the spring of 2021. A trail head will be built in Wolfe Park near the town hall.
In the autumn of 2019 Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail purchased another parcel of land needed for the trail extension. Last winter Friends transferred ownership of that parcel to the Town of Shipshewana.
Many sections of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail are over 10 years old. Erosion threatens to undermine the asphalt at some locations where the trail was built on a raised railroad bed. On May 1st Elkhart County Parks used a front loader tractor to move 100 tons of #53 gravel to an eroded area near County Road 26 just east of County Road 31. Four Friends volunteers spread the gravel after it was delivered by the tractor. Other sites need similar repair and Friends expect the work to continue into 2021.
The collaboration between Friends and Elkhart County Parks provides considerable savings compared to hiring a contractor. Friends bought the gravel with trail maintenance funds donated by trail supporters.
Photo of a tractor front loader delivering gravel to a trail repair site. The collaboration between Friends and Elkhart County Parks provides considerable savings compared to hiring a contractor. Friends bought the gravel with trail maintenance funds donated by trail supporters.
A: No, it is rideable, but not finished. Additions will include privacy fencing near the overpass and at CR 33, a donor- recognition area, a second entrance-exit to County Road 20 and signage.
Q: Why is there a curb along part of the trail just north of the overpass?
A: The curb is designed to keep gravel from the lane just south of the trail from coming onto the asphalt trail. This lane gives the landowners access to the land they own south of the trail.
Q: Why is there an overpass in this section?
A: The overpass is the result of negotiations between the Friends of the Pumpkinvine, Elkhart County Parks and the adjacent landowners who had land and buildings on both sides of the trail. The Friends and Elkhart County Parks did not want the trail to leave the old Pumpkinvine corridor in this area because it would have put the trail into wetlands. But the landowners were reluctant to divide their property with the trail. The Friends of the Pumpkinvine and Elkhart County Parks promised an overpass if the landowners permitted the trail to stay on the old Pumpkinvine corridor and avoid the wetlands in this section.
Q: Why are there concrete sections on the trail?
A: One concrete section along County Road 20 is for a driveway and a possible future driveway. The others represent easements that allow the landowner with land on both sides of the corridor to cross the corridor with heavy equipment now or in the future. These concrete easements are consistent with other easements along the Pumpkinvine.
Q:Who built the overpass? A: Custom Manufacturing, Clinton, Wisconsin.
A note from Friends of the Pumpkinvine board member Vivian Schmucker, our most faithful walker and advocate, about her first walk on the new section of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between CR 33 and CR 20 reminded me that this new section will be a welcome addition to the trail for walkers as much as it is for bikers.
Even before it was officially open, I saw area residents walking down the trail enjoying its beauty and safety. But Vivian walks with a greater purpose: she is training. She participates in the Maple City Walk’s marathon walk in the fall that uses the Pumpkinvine as it’s main venue, and in the past, walkers needed to use county roads for 3.4 miles (1.7 miles each way) of the 26.2-mile marathon course. Now the new section of the trail has eliminated two miles of that on-road route, making for a much safer walk.
Comment from Vivian: “Since the distance between CR 33 and CR 35 by county roads is 1.7 miles, the marathoners previously had to walk 3.4 miles on the county roads for the round trip to Middlebury. Now that the new section of the trail is open, the marathoners will only have to walk .7 miles on county roads between CR 20 and CR 35 for a total of 1.4 miles for the round trip.”
Those of us who are primarily cyclists have a tendency to forget that walkers make up over 40 percent of trail users and that a new section of trail that takes walkers off the county roads improves their safety significantly, too.
The first is a three-foot passing law that says when a motorist is overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction, the motorist must “allow at least three (3) feet of clearance between their vehicle and the bicycle and not return the vehicle to the vehicle’s original lane of travel until the vehicle is safely clear of the bicycle.”A vehicle may pass a bicycle or electric bicycle in a no passing zone if it is safe to do so, complying with current law.”
The second law creates three classes of E bikes. The Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee made up of the four agencies that managing the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail will be discussing how this law applies to the Pumpkinvine at its July meeting.
Class 1 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with a motor that provides assistance only when the operator is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance to the operator when the electric bicycle reaches a speed of twenty (20) miles per hour.
Class 2 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipped with an electric motor that may be used exclusively to propel the electric bicycle and ceases or is unable to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of twenty (20) miler per hour
Class 3 electric bicycle means an electric bicycle equipment with an electric motor that provides assistance only when the operator is pedaling and ceases to provide assistance once the electric bicycle reaches a speed of twenty-eight (28) miles per hour.
The operator of an electric bicycle has all the rights and responsibilities as the rider of a non-electric bicycle.
Unless specifically stated by statute, ordinance, etc. Class 1 and 2 electric bicycles may be operated on any bicycle path or multi -purpose path where bicycles are permitted.
A class 3 electric bicycle mightnot be permitted on bicycle paths or multi use paths and the operator should look toward local ordinances for guidance. (Most trail managing agencies prohibit class 3 electric bicycles.)
A person less than 15 years of age may not operate a class 3 bicycle. A person less than 15 years may ride as a passenger if the bicycle accommodates more than one rider. Anyone who rides or operates a class 3 bicycle that is less than 18 years of age must wear an approved helmet.
In two day, June 15, 2019, a thousand riders will participate in the 20th Pumpkinvine Bike Ride. They will enjoy seeing the new colts in the fields, the beauty of the Indiana countryside and at some point in their ride, experience the shade and off-road safety of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. As they ride the Pumpkinvine, what they may overlook, is the work done to patch the cracks in the trail by Bob Carrico and his crew that results in a far smoother ride than would be the case if they hit a crack multiple time every mile.
Parts of the Pumpkinvine’s asphalt surface are now 20 years old, with the majority of the asphalt being 10 years old. In that time, freezing and thawing have created cracks in the surface of the asphalt that give bike riders a jolt. (The bumps caused by tree roots going under the trail are another issue.) Filling these cracks in a way that makes them smooth is labor intensive, and the local park departments that manage the trail do not have the staff to fill them.
Enter Bob Carrico, the Trail Operations Manager for the Friends of the Pumpkinvine. He has devised a system for filling the cracks that is so good most riders will never know they just passed over a filled crack. In the past month, Bob and his crew have filled every crack in the 16.5 miles of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail from Abshire Park in Goshen to County Road 850W in Shipshewana.
Every time I ride the Pumpkinvine I’m aware of this difference this crack sealing makes, i.e., how smooth they are. Unlike the patches I encounter on the road, which more often than not, substitute create a bump up where there was a bump down, Bob’s patches are smooth, the work of a cyclist who knows how much cyclists dislike bumps that are even a quarter inch high. This kind of patching takes time and patience, something Bob’s crew has in abundance.
So, anyone who rides the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride this weekend or locals who ride it year round, when you encounter a sealed crack, remember the effort and attention to detail that went into making your ride a lot smoother because of the dedication and skill of Bob Carrico.
Work on closing the gap in the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between County Road 33 and County Road 20 began at the end of July, 2018 and the bridge across the south fork of Pine Creek was finished during the winter by Yoder Construction. Pulver Asphalt and Paving, Albion, Ind. has resumed construction on the remainder of the trail and expects to finish by the end of June.
“The bridge builders had other projects to work on and could not give the resources to building the bridge when they were needed,” said Bernie Cunningham, superintendent of Elkhart County Parks, the agency managing construction.
Frequent heavy rains slowed the construction after it resumed this spring.
It won’t be long before we will see the closing of a one-mile gap in the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between County Road 33 and County Road 20. This project has been in process for over five years and involved negotiating with five landowners because the Friends of the Pumpkinvine owned only five percent of the Pumpkinvine corridor in this section.
This part of the Pumpkinvine corridor was conveyed to the railroad back in the 1890s as an easement, and that easement went away when the railroad abandoned rail service in 1982, i.e., the land reverted to the adjacent landowners. So, to put a trail through this section on the old corridor meant getting the cooperation of these five adjacent landowners who now owned the Pumpkinvine corridor.
Our thinking all along was that the most persuasive argument for the trail would be for these landowners to see and use the Pumpkinvine themselves as it approached their area. So, we waited over 20 years for that to happen before we approached them. All were Amish and trail users and by that time they saw the value of the trail for the Amish community. They like the Pumpkinvine, but arriving at a route through this section involved missing wetlands and figuring out a way to accommodate a landowner whose land was divided by the trail.
The trail through this section will eliminate hills on County Road 33 and County Road 20, and the rough surface of County Road 20, which seems to get worse by the day. It also has very fast traffic. Now the challenge is to close the gap between County Road 20 and County Road 35.