Get to Know The Fort Wayne Trails
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of Fort Wayne Real Producers.
Trails improve quality of life, boost connectivity, livability, and are a unique and protected green space for recreation, fitness, and active transportation.
Did you know that there are over 100 (111 to be exact) miles of paved trails in Fort Wayne?
Radiating out from the city center, you can take the Towpath Trail to a 756-acre restored wetland (Eagle Marsh), or follow the Rivergreenway along the St. Marys, St. Joseph, and Maumee rivers as they spread throughout the city. Although only 75 miles of the trails are connected, trail advocates are working to connect a trail system across 11 counties in the region, in addition to the current trails linking Fort Wayne, Allen County, New Haven, Huntertown, Grabill, Leo-Cedarville, and Monroeville.
The paving of the Fort Wayne Trails began in the mid-1970s, however almost 80 miles have been completed in the last twelve years, with the 100th mile completed in late 2017. Since 2016, a yearly average of 558,000 trail users have been recorded by infrared beams placed across the trails. With over 300 bike racks in the city, and the planned growth of the bike sharing program Zagster — it’s clear that Fort Wayne has made the trails a top priority.
At the end of August, two new segments of the Pufferbelly Trail were completed. They are of special note because they connect almost 1,900 residents within a half-mile radius of the trail to more than 200 businesses and organizations — linking nearby neighborhoods including Spy Run, Bloomingdale, Brookview Civic, Irvington, Five Points, and North Franke Park.
Mayor Tom Henry noted at the official opening of the new trail sections: “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.”
The trails are a key element that city planners hope will help attract talent and inspire economic development. Elaine Bedel, president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), elaborated: “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. 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.”
Connecting businesses and destination points is a big attraction of the Pufferbelly Trail, which links Science Central, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, Foellinger Theatre, Sky Zone Trampoline Park, the SportOne Parkview Icehouse and Fieldhouse, Glenbrook Commons and Mall, along with the Fort Wayne riverfront.
“This section of the Pufferbelly Trail could arguably be the most important segment we’ve ever built. 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,” said Dawn Ritchie, Greenways and Trails manager for the City of Fort Wayne.
Set to become one of the premier trails, the Pufferbelly Trail connects the north/south and is comparable to the Rivergreenway and Towpath Trail.
Why the name?
The trail follows a stretch of old railroad linking Fort Wayne and Auburn — pufferbelly was a nickname for the steam engines that puffed along the railways.
Why is it so important?
It is one portion of the larger 81-mile State Visionary Trail, which will be the longest in Indiana when completed. Dubbed the Poka-Bache Connector, it will link Pokagon State Park in Angola to Oubache State Park in Bluffton.
August Pufferbelly Trail Segments Opened:
The two newest sections of the Pufferbelly Trail stretch from West Fourth Street to south of West State Boulevard, and from north of State Boulevard to Fernhill Avenue with a connector to Franke Park and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.
Another two miles of Pufferbelly were completed in November, linking Washington Center with Wallen Road.
Dupont Road Project:
If you live up north, you’ve no doubt been inconvenienced by the closing of Dupont Road, but it’s for the best in the long run. When completed, the road will have 4-lanes, a sidewalk, and a pedestrian/bicycle underpass linking the northernmost portion of the Pufferbelly Trail with the Salomon Farm Park loop. The underpass is scheduled for completion in November of 2018.
A bridge over State Boulevard so users do not have to cross the main road.
Estimated completion date: 2020
Recognized as a National Recreation Trail, the Rivergreenway Trail is officially a 25 mile long “linear park” in Fort Wayne and New Haven. Included in the Rivergreenway is the Maumee Pathway, St. Joe Pathway, St. Joe Blvd Pathway, St. Marys Pathway, and the Yarnelle Trail.
Along the Rivergreenway you can find historical attractions, 15 city parks, scenic overlooks, and woodlands. The Maumee Pathway is said to be Fort Wayne’s greenest riverfront and also provides access to Johnny Appleseed Park.
For easy access, trailheads can be found at Shoaff Park, Tillman Park, New Haven’s Moser Park, or any of the other parks along the trail’s route.
Officially named the Wabash & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, it follows the historic transportation route of the same name in southwest Fort Wayne. Rockhill Park links to the Lutheran Hospital campus through 5.5 miles of neighborhoods, scenic marshlands, and even a short wooded boardwalk.
The most pivotal portion of this trail connects the Aboite Trails and the Rivergreenway for 60+ miles of interconnected trails.
Parking and trail access can be found at the Engle Road trailhead near Eagle Marsh; via the athletic fields at the intersection of Fountain Avenue and Glendale Road; or at Rockhill Park on Catalpa Street.
Located in southwest Fort Wayne are 18 miles of hilly trails called the Aboite Trails, connecting the Towpath Trail and Indian Trails Park.
For safe and easy access to the Aboite trail system, park at the Jorgensen YMCA off Aboite Center Road.
There are many other trails not mentioned in this article, and development continues for the Fort Wayne Trail system as a whole.
Fort Wayne Trails:
Wheelchairs, biking, hiking, jogging, and rollerblading are all permitted.
Pets are allowed on a leash.
Want more information?
Fort Wayne Trails: (260) 969-0079, firstname.lastname@example.org
City of Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation: (260) 427-6228, email@example.com
Fort Wayne Trails are also viewable on Google Maps
*Direct quotes via CityOfFortWayne.com
Photos by Tony Frantz