By SAM HOUSEHOLDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
— MIDDLEBURY - The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail celebrated a major milestone Wednesday with a ribbon cutting ceremony for three new sections of the trail that connects Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana.
The three completed sections in Middlebury are a 1.2 mile section connecting from the U.S. 20 tunnel to Wayne Street, a 1,000 foot section along S.R. 13 between York Drive and the Dairy Queen on S.R. 13 and approximately three-tenths of a mile from C.R. 37 to C.R. 35.
Mark Salee, Middlebury Town Manager, said that the new trails in Middlebury will serve as connectors for the trails in Middlebury connecting to the town’s parks, downtown and restaurants.
“The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail running through the town is the backbone of the trails of Middlebury,” he said.
Jeff Burbrink, president of the Elkhart County parks board, said that the trail is a quality of life factor that will connect the communities along the trail.
“This is a community development effort,” he said. ”This is something that’s bringing people to our community, it’s connecting our community.”
“It’s like the super highway for the people who are commuting to work and then after hours it’s taking families out,” Salee said.
Salee added that new signage is coming to help direct trail users to places in Middlebury.
John Yoder, president of the Friends of the Pumpkinvine group said that this is a major milestone in the long-running project.
According to Yoder, 20 years ago this month the Friends group purchased the trail corridor from the Pennsylvania railroad. After the purchase they donated the land to the various government entities when they had the funds to develop the trail he said.
Yoder also talked about the many hurdles in making it this far.
“What is it that has kept the vision alive for the trail,” he asked. “The one key, I think, is the generosity of our community Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana.”
“We discovered huge numbers of people who believed that recycling this railroad corridor would improve the quality of life by creating shared public space,” he said.
As for what’s next for the trail and the Friend group, Yoder said they are already working on finishing up the two major gaps still in the trail, which are about a mile and a half between Middlebury and Goshen and from the end of the trail to downtown Shipshewana, Yoder said.
“That’s why we made this a ribbon cutting rather than a grand opening because we’d really like to see it finished,” he said.
While Yoder said there is no timetable for the finish of the trail, he said that the new sections make the trail easier to use and less confusing for users.
“This enhances the trail, the parts that were already there and makes the whole thing much more accessible,” he said.