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(l-r) Dawn Ritchie, City of Fort Wayne Greenways Manager; State Representative Phil GiaQuinta; Mayor Tom Henry; Andrew Briggs, Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority; City Councilman Jason Arp; Angie Quinn, Fort Wayne Trails; Julia Andorfer, The Stand; Camille Garrison, Kingston Care & Waynedale Trails & Sidewalk Initiative; David Umber, Umber’s Do it Best.

Mayor Tom Henry joined members of the Regional Development Authority, state and local elected officials, neighborhood and business representatives and trail enthusiasts today to celebrate and officially open a 1.5-mile section of the State Visionary Trail, known as the Poka-Bache Connector.

The trail, located along Bluffton Road between Lower Huntington Road and West Foster Park, connects 3,817 residents and more than 170 businesses to within a half-mile radius of the trail. That proximity opens the door to connection to our trail network of more than 107 miles.

“Investing in trails is critical to neighborhood and regional development,” said Mayor Henry. “We continue to demonstrate a commitment to enhancing quality of life amenities that make our community more attractive for businesses, economic development opportunities, and individuals and families. We’re fortunate to have a growing and thriving trails system that’s having a positive impact on Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana.”

Connectivity is a key of the Poka-Bache Connector. The 81-mile trail connects Ouabache State Park in Bluffton and Pokagon State Park in Angola. More than 470,000 residents live in the counties of the trail’s path: Wells, Allen, Dekalb and Steuben.
With that in mind, it’s appropriate that Regional Cities funding, the “last-in,” investment for regional initiatives, is helping to meet connectivity goals of northeast Indiana.

“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). “Expanding the Poka-Bache State Visionary Trail and the Fort Wayne Area Trail Network will support the region’s efforts to retain and attract top talent, advancing northeast Indiana on its Road to One Million residents.”

“We know that growing Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana requires that we intentionally plan for the needs and wants of both current and future residents,” said Andrew Briggs, Board Chair, Regional Development Authority. “Study after study has linked happiness, rising property values and active lifestyle to the proximity of trails.”

Regional Cities funding was just under $1.8 million for trail construction of the State Visionary Trail.

It aids four segments of the Poka-Bache Connector, including:
· Bluffton Road: Lower Huntington Road to West Foster Park/Rivergreenway Connector (officially open)
· Pufferbelly Trail: State Boulevard to Fourth Street (under construction)
· Pufferbelly Trail: Wallen Road to Washington Center (under construction)
· Pufferbelly Trail: State Boulevard to Fernhill Avenue and Franke Parke/Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo (under construction)

The four projects total $10.3 million. The portion celebrated today represents a $1,044,380 investment with $610,000 coming from the RDA and additional funding coming from the City Public Works Division, Community Development Division and Waynedale Trails and Sidewalks Initiative, which funded survey work for the project.

City Greenways and Trails Director, Dawn Ritchie, and Fort Wayne Trails, Inc., CEO, Kent Castleman, compiled the successful application and presented to the RDA board in 2016. Funding came in 2017 and this year projects are reaching their completion.

Editor’s Note: The Waynedale News would like to commend all of the individuals, organizations and businesses who were involved in the installation of the trail for their hard work bringing safety for walkers and bikers along Bluffton Road. Also, a huge thanks to the Camille Garrison, Beulah Matczak and many others who believed in the Waynedale Sidewalks & Trails Initiative and worked within the community to fundraise $20,000 to go towards the initial survey of the trail. Their fundraising effort brought the trail to Waynedale much sooner than originally planned.

The Waynedale News Staff

Frank Suarez, City of Fort Wayne PIO

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