Fort Wayne Trails has secured enough signatures to continue constructing a new section of the Pufferbelly Trail from Life Bridge Church, 12719 Corbin Road, Fort Wayne, north through Huntertown.
Megan McClellan, Fort Wayne Trails executive director, said the organization was able to secure the 66% of signatures needed from residents in Huntertown’s Twin Eagles neighborhood, through which a section of the trail will be built. There are 254 households in the neighborhood, and without 66% of signatures from homeowners, Fort Wayne Trails would have risked losing a $3.3 million Next Level Trails grant it received for construction of the trail. In July, when Huntertown officials set a soft deadline of Sept. 21, only about 34% of households had signed the agreement.
“Now the next step is to submit all of this information to the DNR. We have to prove that we now have access to all of the different properties along the route,” McClellan said. “… They are providing a large portion of the funds needed for this. I’ve worked with them on a separate project, and DNR is not wanting to hold up these funds — they want us to spend the money.”
Once the project is approved by Indiana DNR, Fort Wayne Trails plans to put it out to bid, this spring at the latest, McClellan said.
“It will just depend on the construction companies’ schedules, when they can start construction. The earlier we can bid it, the earlier we can get it on the ground, but the plan is definitely some construction if not all construction will happen next summer,” McClellan said. “If we can start first thing in the spring, we expect to be finished with the majority of construction if not all the cleanup and everything by this time next year.”
McClellan said the goal is to complete a section of the Pufferbelly from the trail head where it currently ends behind Life Bridge Church to Fitch Road, which is about five miles to the north. However, she believes it’s more likely the trail would be completed up to Gump Road by this time next year.
The trail will eventually connect to a spur at Payton County Park, 13928 Dunton Road, Huntertown, as part of a larger project being completed by Allen County Parks and Recreation. That project, which is expected to be completed in spring 2021, will include a half-mile paved loop within the park that will connect to the Pufferbelly Trail, as well as a new parking lot, a playground and a taller gazebo.
“Everything is moving now,” McClellan said. “For a long time, it was sort of stuck, but now it’s all moving.”