I stepped out of my church one afternoon to find a man parked in the lot, pulling a bicycle out of his car. I stopped to say hello and check out his bike. He is from Cleveland and came to ride the MapleHeart and Pumpkinvine bike trails — at least as far as Middlebury, where he'll take C.R. 8 to Bristol and back to Elkhart, just as I would! So I gave him some tips on what to watch out for, answered his questions and bid him a fun ride.
I point this out to inform the community that the MapleHeart and the Pumpkinvine are becoming destinations that draw people to our area.
It is with this in mind that I say we need to stop telling ourselves that these trails are just luxuries or trendy inconveniences. The county and city need to step up maintenance of these resources. We need to clean and trim along these trails, and businesses along the Sterling Avenue portion need to treat them with more respect. The pallet business and the one glass/mechanic shop in particular are notorious for littering and parking vehicles on the path. It would be nice to know that when people drive an hour or several hours from outside the community to ride our trails that they’ll see Elkhart at its best. It would be fantastic if they went home with a good report and encouraged more people to come here and spend their money.
It would also be nice for the hundreds of people who ride these trails daily if they didn't have to regularly dodge rocks, glass, sharp metal, overgrown branches and illegally parked vehicles.
I hope folks will consider the positive role our bike trails play in this community and make the effort to keep them safe and attractive assets for all.