If you want to see the value of a walking or biking trail and whether Elkhart needs more of them, head to Middlebury.
Take your bike if you have one and ride the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. If you don’t have one, visit the Dairy Queen on North Main Street in Middlebury to see how incredibly busy the store and the bike path has become because of this path that goes through the north side of town and connects Goshen and Shipshewana.
There’s a move toward adding bike trails in Elkhart and it’s a smart one.
As he promised, Mayor Tim Neese is gathering input on a new proposal. That’s laudable and it seems to be the way he just does business.
A meeting on Monday will allow people to offer input on whether to proceed, but plans are already being made for the initial 1.3 miles of trail from the Riverwalk in the city center to the intersection of Indiana and Sterling avenues where bike lanes start on Sterling.
With the construction, which could cost $200,000 and be done by July, someone could ride from Shipshewana to downtown Elkhart and be on a road very little. Offering safety to bicyclists has become something vibrant communities do. Offering a place for people to run, walk and bike is something people now want in the places where they live.
What you’ll see on the Pumpkinvine is people. A lot of people. Runners and walkers. Serious cyclists and kids on one of their first long rides. When the Pumpkinvine was an idea, it faced strong opposition. A couple decades later, it’s become a treasure and it gets used heavily.
Traffic on the Pumpkinvine, the way it has helped businesses in Middlebury and Shipshewana, is evidence of how it could help Elkhart. Putting a trail through the neighborhoods southeast of downtown is a start. Trails along the beautiful Elkhart and St. Joseph Rivers would also be lovely if the city can afford them.
The key question is where the money will come from to do this. Or whether residents value potential trails enough to pay for them.
This community has other issues that need to be addressed as well, but bike trails are a good thing worth considering. Ask any of those using one on a sunny Saturday or Sunday in Middlebury.