Once a month, representatives from Goshen Park and Recreation, Middlebury, Shipshewana, Elkhart County Parks and the Friends of the Pumpkinvine meet to discuss issues related to the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. The group is called the Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee (PAC), and its purpose is to foster cooperation and consistent policies among the four government agencies that manage the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. With so much cynicism around about government, it’s refreshing to participate in meetings where government officials listen, make good decisions, and in general are responsible public servants.
The group makes decisions by consensus and most of those decisions don’t require approval from the boards or councils the PAC members work for. An example of a PAC decision is the agreement to color code the mile markers — Goshen, blue; Elkhart County Parks, brown; Middlebury, green; and Shipshewana, black — so that users would know who is managing the section they are in.
If PAC creates a policy that would have legal implications, the agency representatives seek approval from their boards or councils. In other words, PAC does not function at this point as an official inter-governmental agency that makes policy on it’s own. Although members have discussed drawing up an inter-governmental agreement, they don’t think its necessary at this time.
The issues the PAC members discuss in a typical meeting include updates on trail construction projects (if any), problems encountered on the trail, like lines painted on the trail surface or rough pavement that needs fixing. A major topic concerns events that various groups are planning for the trail. Last year PAC agreed on an application process for groups using the trail to raise money in an effort to be prepared for the groups and avoid conflicts if two groups wanted events on the same day. They want groups to have a good experience, and knowing ahead of time where the group plans to walk or run allows the managing agencies for those sections to be sure that the trail is cleaned off and any needed repairs are done.
Another PAC initiative was the policy on what powered vehicles people with disabilities could use on the trail. The group hammered out the wording and then each managing agency had its board or council approve the measure. The Friends of the Pumpkinvine agreed to pay for the flags that would be attached to the vehicles to identify them as approved trail vehicles.
The Friends of the Pumpkinvine also assist the group by providing the trail map, managing the Pumpkinvine website (www.punpkinvine.org), and answering emails from people who want information about the Pumpkinvine. One person asked what sections of the Pumpkinvine were shaded because they had a skin condition and couldn’t be in the sun very long. Others ask where they can park, what’s the longest paved section or if there are bikes to rent.