Two significant segments of the Pufferbelly Trail are complete and today Mayor Tom Henry joined business owners, community leaders, elected officials and members of the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority (RDA) to cut the ribbon and officially open the trail routes.
At 2.2 miles in length, the trail segments extend from West Fourth Street to just south of West State Boulevard and from just north of State where it branches to the Zoo and Fernhill Avenue. These portions of the Pufferbelly Trail will connect nearly 1,900 residents within a half-mile radius of the trail (1/4 mile on each side) to more than 200 businesses and organizations. The proximity includes the neighborhoods of Spy Run, Bloomingdale, Brookview Civic, Irvington, Five Points, North Franke Park.
“The growth of our trails network continues to position Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana as leaders in providing quality of life amenities for residents, businesses, and guests,” said Mayor Henry. “I’m encouraged by the collaboration we’ve been experiencing as we invest in projects that will have a lasting and meaningful impact. High-performing partnerships are making a positive difference in our community.”
“Through the Regional Cities Initiative, northeast Indiana is investing in its long-term future through targeted projects to enhance culture, connectivity and livability for Hoosiers,” said Elaine Bedel, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC). “These new segments will support the region’s efforts to retain and attract top talent, advancing northeast Indiana on its Road to One Million residents.”
Connectivity is highly noticeable along this section of the Pufferbelly Trail. It’s close to 186 commercial businesses and connects to destination points such as Science Central, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Foellinger Theatre, Sky Zone Trampoline Park, the SportOne Parkview Icehouse and Fieldhouse, Glenbrook Commons and Mall, and Fort Wayne’s riverfront.
“This section of the Pufferbelly Trail could arguably be the most important segment we’ve ever built,” said Dawn Ritchie, Greenways and Trails manager for the City of Fort Wayne. “We are providing a safe connection to so many businesses and destination points. It also links to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge, connecting users to the entire downtown.”
The two segments opened today were grouped with two other sections of the Pufferbelly Trail to obtain Regional Cities funding provided by the IEDC. The segments included:
• Pufferbelly Trail: State Boulevard to Fourth Street
• Bluffton Road: Lower Huntington Road to West Foster Park/Rivergreenway Connector
• Pufferbelly Trail: State Boulevard to Fernhill Avenue and Franke Parke/Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
• Pufferbelly Trail: Wallen Road to Washington Center (construction of final phase between Ludwig and Washington Center is underway)
Regional Cities funding was the “last in” funding and provided the final $1.8 million needed to complete the total investment of $10.3 million needed for the four segments. Additionally, Fort Wayne Trails Inc., contributed $100,000 toward the construction of the section from State to Fernhill and the Zoo.
"Fort Wayne Trails continues to raise funds through donations by residents, businesses, and foundations to develop the Pufferbelly Trail and this latest contribution is proof of that community support. This north/south connector is going to be one of our premier trails, comparable to the Rivergreenway and Towpath Trail. Through continued advocacy efforts, we are also working with the county and Huntertown to support the development of their portions of the trail for local and regional connectivity."
The four segments total just over six miles of trail that are 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 new segments bring 22,688 residents within a half-mile radius of the trail network and expand the existing trail grid for all residents.