Have you or your children ever wanted to ride a bike, skate, run or walk somewhere, but didn't do so because there wasn't a safe, pleasant way to get there? Many citizens around Indiana and across the nation are able to do so via multi-use trails or linear parks. Fortunately for Aboite Township and its near 30,000 citizens, this can become a reality through the leadership efforts of Aboite New Trails, Inc., a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote the expansion of multi-use trails throughout Southwest Allen County.
Aboite New Trails (ANT) was developed in 2002 by Aboite Township residents Lynn Reecer and Stephanie Schultz, who last year along with ANT’s 15-member Board of Directors, commissioned a study by Fort Wayne-based GAI Consultants that made recommendations about the types of facilities best suited to receive trail systems in Southwest Allen County. What ensued was a comprehensive 52-mile plan that promises safe pedestrian and bicycle travel by weaving natural corridors to community assets like parks, schools, shopping areas and places of employment. The plan reveals an extensive network of trails extending across the Southwest area to Fox Island County Park and ultimately linking to central Fort Wayne’s 15-mile Rivergreenway trail system, the City’s only current trail network.
In 2003, the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department conducted a community-wide survey that revealed Fort Wayne and Aboite Township residents desire trails and greenways. According to Reecer, the National Recreation and Park Association recommends that 25 miles of trails exist for every 50,000 people in an urbanized area. With a metro population of more than 500,000 in the Fort Wayne area, it’s evident these new paths are a necessity.
Called linear parks in many metropolitan cities, the ANT plan of trails boasts a network that will be used by people employing alternative methods of transportation such as bicycling, jogging, pushing strollers, in-line skating, and walking, to name a few. According to Reecer, it’s also a benefit for Fort Wayne’s economic vitality.
“The nation's most livable places share a common thread of multi-use trails, which connect people with places and with each other,” says Reecer. “It’s possible to use trail mileage as a measure of an area's quality-of-life, strength of community, and local economic vitality. The newly constructed bridge on Aboite Center Road (over I-69) provides a concrete reminder of a strong commitment to Aboite's future. Today, the sidewalks on that bridge are strips that dead-end. Tomorrow, through a strong grass roots campaign, they can link neighborhoods with businesses, restaurants, and parks."