Mayor Tom Henry joined local trail advocates, neighborhood leaders, elected officials and members of the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) for a ceremonial groundbreaking for the next portion of the Pufferbelly Trail between State Boulevard and Fourth Street.
At just over a half mile, the project will connect nearly 1,200 residents within a half-mile radius of the trail (1/4 mile on each side) to 50 businesses and organizations. It’s an important connection to the State Visionary Trail and is being funded in part by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation through the Regional Cities Initiative.
“Positive momentum continues for the City of Fort Wayne and our region,” said Mayor Henry. “The investment we’re making in our neighborhoods by connecting them with each other and with destination points is important, not only today, but for our future success.”
“Through the Regional Cities Initiative, Indiana is focused on attracting and retaining talent in our communities by supporting quality of place projects,” said Elaine Bedel, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. “This trail network will be a tremendous amenity to northeast Indiana, helping boost connectivity and livability in the region while also encouraging physical activity among its residents.”
Regional Cities Initiative funding was the “last in” funding, with about 18 percent going toward four trail projects in Fort Wayne. These trail segments will be part of the Poka-Bache Connector, the 81-mile State Visionary Trail that will connect Ouabache State Park in Bluffton to Pokagon State Park in Angola. The funding of $1.8 million was awarded through the Regional Development Authority and the Regional Cities Initiative.
The four Fort Wayne projects include:
- Pufferbelly Trail: State Boulevard to Fourth Street (under construction today – completion late June 2018)
- Bluffton Road: Lower Huntington Road to West Foster Park/Rivergreenway Connector (under construction)
- Pufferbelly Trail: Wallen Road to Washington Center (phase II bidding soon)
- Pufferbelly Trail: State Boulevard to Fernhill Avenue and Franke Parke/Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo (under construction)
- Total Projects Investment: $10.3 million
- IEDC Funding: $1.8 million
- Contractor for State to Fourth segment: Crosby Excavating
These four segments will connect with 22,688 residents within a half-mile radius of the trail network and expand the existing trail grid for all residents.
City of Fort Wayne Greenways and Trails Manger, Dawn Ritchie and Fort Wayne Trails, Inc., Executive Director, Kent Castleman, compiled the successful application and presented it to the RDA in 2016. Funding was awarded in early 2017.
“We are pleased to partner with the IEDC and the Regional Cities Initiative. They understand the importance trail connections make in our community,” said Ritchie. “Every day we see new people using our trail network, for daily exercise and to reach destination points.”
“The importance the RDA placed on this regional connector in Allen County/ Fort Wayne says a lot for its significance for the whole region. We look forward to being a continued partner to help make this regional connector a reality,” said Castleman
What’s in a Name?
Pufferbelly is the name given to the trail because the path closely fallows the rail line used by a steam locomotive. The nickname for the steam locomotive is Pufferbelly.