Local Trails Seeing Plenty of Users

Fort Wayne Trails has a long history of connecting people and multi-purpose paths to enrich the quality of life in Allen County and usage of the trail system is at an all-time high.

Fort Wayne Trails Executive Director Megan McClellan says trail usage is up 50 percent compared to this time last year and projects are always underway to extend and enhance the 124 miles of trail in Allen County.

“We do predict our trail usage will remain high. When people were in lockdown, they had nowhere else to go, but they continue to use the trails because they’ve discovered the joy of being outside,” she says.

She backs up her claim by noting that since gyms opened, trail usage has remained high and bike shops are reporting record sales.

“People are using bikes for recreation and to commute and they have realized it’s not that difficult and they actually like it. I like to think people have discovered how wonderful it is to be outdoors and they won’t give it up,” she says.

For decades, there’s been a focus on developing an extensive trail system in the county. To help people identify and navigate trails, the organization updates a map yearly. The 2021 issue is currently at the printer and will soon be available at trail-friendly businesses and kiosks, she says.

“Most everybody living in our county is within walking distance to a trail, but they may not even know it,” she says.

Multi-use trails are ideal for activities such as bicycling, hiking, nature study, jogging, rollerblading or just going for a leisurely walk. They offer natural vistas and scenic overlooks within an urban environment.

Helping people to know where the trails are, how they’re connected, and where they are in relation to other trails is the goal of a newly developed app called Fort Wayne Trails. From the app menu, selections can be made to show existing trails, planned trails, bike lanes and routes, trailhead parking, and trail-friendly businesses where you can use restrooms, get water or get a free cookie or ice cream cone as you travel along the trails.

The app doesn’t allow you to plan a route, but the organization is working on developing that capability, McClellan says.

Fort Wayne Trails, Inc. is a non-profit organization that was developed in 2011 when three local trail groups merged. Those groups included The Rivergreenway Consortium, which was organized in the 1970s and worked with the city to develop trails along local rivers. Aboite New Trails began in the early 2000s as a response to the lack of pedestrian and bicycle facilities in the southwest suburban area of the county and Northwest Allen Trails also began at the same time with a focus on areas north and northwest of downtown Fort Wayne.

The coming together of the groups for trail enthusiasts led to a united focus and vision for working with municipal, business, and other community members to develop a county-wide trail system.

“All of the trail groups were competing for the same funding, so they came together 10 years ago to be a unified force. Allen County has a lot of support for trails from all the cities, including one trail manager in Fort Wayne Public Works Department and another person who works part time on trails in the county,” she says.

An upcoming seasonal event is the annual Trek the Trails, a family-friendly bike ride at 6 p.m. every Tuesday, beginning April 27 at different locations each week. The ride is a collaborative effort with the City of Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne Trails, Summit City Bicycles and Fitness, and Three Rivers Velo Sport. Most rides are about eight miles long and the average speed is 10-12 miles per hour. This is a “no one left behind” ride and families are welcome. A second lap is offered most evenings for those who want a longer ride. Staff from Summit City Bicycles and Fitness, the event sponsor, will be on hand to change flat tires and make minor bike repairs. Pre-registration is not required, but gives participants a chance to win a new bicycle at the end of the season. For more information about the event and a schedule of ride locations, call Fort Wayne Trails at (260) 969-0079, email [email protected], or go to the website fwtrails.org. /events/trekthetrails.

Some of the current trail development projects beginning as early as this summer include extending the Pufferbelly Trail from Life Bridge Church to Fitch Road, and from Washington Center Road to Ice Way building, which will connect 30 miles of trail; extending Union Chapel Trail from Corbin Road to Auburn Road; and expanding Carroll Road Trail from Pathway Church to the Pufferbelly Trail. This project will complete a 115-mile trail. Funding is still needed for the Union Chapel Trail and part of the Pufferbelly Trail.

For more information on trails, go to FWTrails.org.