Six Paul Harding Junior High students were awarded a check for $9,000 Monday afternoon to kick off a fundraising campaign for construction of the Million Dreams Nature Trail. The trail will be behind the school at 6501 Wayne Trace.

The check, which was made possible through the Ropchan Foundation, was presented by Megan McClellan, executive director of Fort Wayne Trails.

The project involves a one-half-mile natural trail through the woods and a mile of paved trail across Harding High School’s former baseball diamonds which will be transformed into a native prairie. The Department of Natural Resources will seed the prairie next month.

The seventh- and eighth-grade students, all members of the all-girls robotics team, came up with the idea last fall when they were preparing to compete at IVY Tech to qualify for the state Lego League competition to be held at Purdue Fort Wayne. Their project involved utilizing the old ball diamonds as a drone park for robotic experiments, science classes and physical education that would also include trails for use by the school and the community.

The robotics team, which includes Amiyah Hogan, Victoria Toroblohm, Irais Hernandez-Jose, May Clothurein, Aster Paw and Citlali Monterroso, won both championships. They’re coached by science teacher Dave Broerman.

Last fall a group of volunteers cleared a half-mile natural trail through the woods. “We cut down and dug out trees,” said Broerman, "so they wouldn’t grow back and interfere with the path. Funds are being raised now to complete the paved trail through the prairie land. I’m really proud of the students for coming up with the idea and following through to see it actually happen and they’re excited that it will benefit their campus and the community. An environmental grant from NIPSCO helped us create the loop trail through the woods."

“Eventually this will become the trailhead for the Six-Mile Creek Trail that will connect New Haven and southeast Fort Wayne to the Rivergreenway via Tillman Park," Broerman said. "The school is just about halfway between Fort Wayne and New Haven. This is a real good thing for our students."

The $9,000 check will be put in a special East Allen County Schools fund to support the construction of the trails.

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