Here where I live in Fort Wayne, Indiana we have a trail which at this time lacks a connecting section between what is built to the south and what is built to the north. I am talking about the Pufferbelly Trail which I have written about before. The section which needs to be built to connect these existing sections must cross a busy six lane highway (Coliseum Blvd). Obviously the very safest way to accomplish this is to build a bridge which goes up and over the highway. That is the eventual plan but that costs big bucks which the city does not have at this time. So for now the plan is to have a street level crossing. I have to admit that has me concerned. We have already had two trail users killed on this trail on the north section. Both were hit by cars as they attempted to cross roads in the crosswalks. And these were only 2 lane roads and not heavy traffic like Coliseum Blvd. In both fatalities the car drivers were at fault.
On the same trail we have a bridge over another often busy street (West State Blvd). It is really nice and is great to use.
Coliseum Blvd. aleady has several traffic lights and one more is not going to be welcome by motorists. Below is a map of the section of the Pufferbelly Trail which is suppose to be built next year. Coliseum Blvd. was originally built as a by-pass but it didn’t last long before it was all built up and very congested. In the aggrevation and frustration that followed it became known as the 7 mile long parking lot.
On the map below the section which needs to be built yet is shown in orange. The sections shown in red are already built and in use.
In the satellite image below it shows where the crossing will be located. It shows that there will be a “refuge island” out in the middle of Coliseum Blvd. Personally I would like to see some sort of gates come down stopping traffic so that they could not get to trail users without crashing thru the gates.
Here is a street view of the area on Coliseum Blvd. where the Pufferbelly Trail will cross. As you can see there are 6 lanes of traffic. The one side doesn’t appear to be very busy as traffic behind the camera is stopped by a traffic light when the picture was taken.
At another busy road (Dupont Rd.) they built the trail going under the road which is even nicer than a bridge going over a road. They were able to do this while rebuilding the road. I think the road project paid for it and a good chunk of the money came from the State of Indiana.
Although I am somewhat terrified at the thought of crossing this busy road (Coliseum Blvd.) I am looking forward to having this connecting link completed so trail users have a way to ride the entire trail. They are currently working on completing the trail north on to the county line where the next county will continue it to their northern county line and so on with each county involved. Eventually it should be an 83 or so mile long trail one can ride. I will probably be too old by then to ride it. Meanwhile my plan is to …
I thought I had written at least one article about the Pufferbelly Trail previously but upon doing a search I discovered I haven’t. I have talked about it a few times in various posts but I have never featured it. So guess what? Yep, I decided to do so now. The Pufferbelly Trail is an ongoing rails to trail project located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Nearly 7 miles of the Pufferbelly Trail have been constructed: 4.75 miles from Washington Center Rd. north to Life Bridge Church. Another 2.25 miles is constructed from Lawton Park and Fourth St north to Lima Rd and Ice Way. Eventually, this trail will extend from the northern edge of Allen County south 13 miles where it will connect with the Rivergreenwayin downtown Fort Wayne. The Pufferbelly Trail is one segment of a State Visionary Trail. When completed, the trail will be part of the Poka-Bache Connector, running from Ouabache State Park near Bluffton to Pokagon State Park north of Angola. This 81.3-mile connector trail will bring Steuben, Dekalb, Allen, and Wells counties communities together. This trail is a crucial part of the United Trails project in our region.
Although** I have not seen or heard of any of it being built other than about 7 miles here in Fort Wayne and Allen County our local trails manager tells me that about 50 % of the 81 miles is already complete. **Until just now I was unaware that anything has been done in Dekalb County north of Allen County. I was wrong. They have built a trail that goes right past where I used to live. It starts near the intersection of County Rd. 11A and County Rd. 56 goes alll the way into and thru the city of Auburn (right past the Auburn-Cord- Dusenburg Automotive Museum). The trail connects to the Rieke Trail going north out of Auburn and will follow along Betz Rd. to connect to the pre-existing Auburn-Waterloo Trail. HERE is some information of the Steuben County plans.
In Allen County right now the Pufferbelly Trail ends just a little ways north of Carroll Road at Life Bridge church. Life Bridge church has generously built a connecting trail over to their church and provided a trail head to park motor vehicles there for trail users. They have even built a pavilion near the trail for trail users to use.
Although there remains a few more miles of trail to be built to the north to reach the Allen County line where Dekalb Couny takes over the good news is the State of Indiana has pledged the funds needed to complete it. That being said it hasn’t been made available yet so construction has not started yet. I hope they get it built clear up to Pokagon State Park while I am still able to ride as I would love to attempt it. Fort Wayne is located about half way on the trail so it would be approximately a 40 mile ride to the northern end.
UPDATE: 1/26/23 — I just received word via an email that construction will begin next week on the remaining portion to be built to the north. They will get it ready over the Winter and Sping and pave it when it warms up. That is really welcome news. Now if Dekalb County will get their two connecting sections built the trail will be rideable up to Waterloo at least.
Right now the trail ends to the south at Washington Center Rd. There is a delay continuing it further south from there to connect to the next section they have already built. A major busy road (Indiana State Highway 930 otherwise known as Coliseum Blvd.) must be crossed which eventually a bridge over it is planned but that is many years off as it will be very expensive. Meanwhile the plan is to have the trail cross at ground level. I find that scary. It is very busy and very wide, especially at this planned location. I am told the crossing will be near Industrial Rd.
The map below shows the tuture planned trail route from Washington Center Rd. south across Coliseum Blvd. and further south connecting to the existing Pufferbelly Trail which goes right behind the Trek Bike Store making it very handy to cycle to. The Trek Bike Store is our local Catrike dealer.
I am sure many have already figured out where this trail got its name. Those who are old enough probably remember the popular childrens’ song …
Yep, steam engines, affectionately called “pufferbellies” used to operate on this railroad corridor. Thus the powers that be named it Pufferbelly Trail.
I had a little fun photo editing …
Years ago I read that this trail will eventually connect into a future east-west trail in northern Indiana … all part of the “visionary trail network” in Indiana. I see on the map that connecting trail will follow along Indiana State Highway 4 running northwest.
The Pufferbelly is a really nice trail … perhaps my favorite local trail. It is quite popular having more traffic on it than any other local trail. It also goes by Salomon Farms where another tradilhead is provided. Solomon Farms has a nice nearly 2 mile long trail around it which I always ride. Nice restrooms are available there at the north end of the barn type building.
Much of it is pretty well shaded which I always appreciate.
The trail passes under Dupont Rd., a busy 4 lane city road.
One of the trail extensions underway.
The trail as it crosses over W. State Blvd.
Some homeowners have the trail right in their back yard. How handy that would be.
I ride all year long as much as I can.
Above is a bridge on the Poka-Bache Connector trail in Bluffton, Indiana which is at the sound end of the trail.
Riding north on undeveloped train track corridor. See my update above. This will soon be developed and paved when warmer weather arrives.
Speaking of State Visionary Trails here is a map of future planned trails in NE Indiana …
There have been two incidents of trail users on bicycles getting hit by cars while attempting to cross the roads. The first one was killed. The most recently one was seriously injured. I haven’t heard any updates on her. Both of these happened the same way … motorists stopped at the crosswalks to allow trail users to cross. They are not supposed to do this as it creates a very dangerous situation for trail users. They start to cross the trail and get hit by motor vehicles who are not stopping. In Indiana if there are people already IN the crosswalk motor vehicles are required to stop and give them the right of way. But if they have not entered the crosswalk motor vehicles are not required to stop. Not only are they not required they are not suppose to because this is what is happening. People need to get educated. If someone stops to let me cross I motion them to drive on. And I am finding more and more trail users are doing the same. Still, however, there are trail users who take off across the road. Just yesterday I saw a car stop to let trail users cross and a pick up truck went zooming around the stopped car. Fortunately the trail users had not attempted to cross. All of this I am sharing has been explained on the local TV news a few times but there still seems to be a lot of drivers who are not aware that they are not suppose to stop. I have written articles about these two incidents … https://tadpolerider.com/2022/03/07/trail-crossings-dont-become-a-victim/ and https://tadpolerider.com/2022/08/19/another-bicyclist-on-pufferbelly-trail-hit-by-car-at-road-crossing/.
Right now there is no practical way by bicycle to get to the Pufferbelly Trail where it takes off north from Washington Center Rd. I have a route I take but I end up riding down the the turning lane on Coldwater Rd. and the outside lane of Washington Center Rd. Most cyclists would not do that saying it is way too dangerous. Honestly I feel quite safe doing so and never have any issues with motor vehicles. I have the outside lane on Washington Center Rd. all to myself. A couple of days ago I was driving my car on Washington Center Rd. and spotted a guy on a tadpole trike riding in the outside lane. He turned off to ride on the Pufferbelly Trail. So I am not the only one who does this.
Fort Wayne is Indiana’s second largest city with a growing population currently around 268,000. We are blessed to have about 130 miles of trails at this point in time. About 79 miles of them are connected together. They are all paved … mostly with asphalt and a small amount are concrete. The original trails are known as the Rivergreenway because they follow along the three rivers we have here in Fort Wayne. The Rivergreenway consists of about 21 miles of linear trails. The Rivergreenway consists of the St. Joseph Pathway, the St. Marys Pathway and the Maumee Pathway. Two other trails I recommend are the Towpath Trail and the Pufferbelly Trail. HERE is a map of the entire trail system.
For those who are campers there is a very nice campground conveniently located in Johnny Appleseed Park which has one of the Rivergreenway Trails (the St. Joseph Pathway) going right past it. There are also two fenced in dog parks available just across the street from the campground for those who have dogs with them. It is called Camp Canine and is 60,000 square feet in area. To check out the cost and requirements click on the dog parks link above. I often times stop by on my trike just to watch the dogs play and interact with one another. On the map below the black line area is the campground, the blue line area is the dog parks and the red line is the St. Joseph Pathway (bike trail).
I am available to ride with anyone who wants to come here and ride on our trails. I will help with learning the trails and making sure you are safe and don’t get lost. I look forward to meeting you. You can email me for further communication, information and planning. My email address is … tadpolerider2 at gmail dot com.