While there were several recurring themes from the Community Conversations in 2016, one of the clearest concerned bicycling and walking trails that helped connect communities.’

It shows up several times in the Action Agenda. Countywide priority actions include “Activate a multimodal loop countywide, and connect regionally.”

Major progress has been made on a new bicycling/walking trail between Elkhart and Middlebury

The theme is repeated in the Elkhart section, which lists as a priority action “Build safe and attractive connections to support active transportation between parks, attractions, shopping and schools,” the Middlebury/Bristol section (“Create a multi-use trail to connect Middlebury and Bristol”), and the Nappanee/Wakarusa section (“Build multi-use bike/walking trail from Nappanee to Wakarusa”).

There’s no doubt that these voices have been heard, loud and clear. Elkhart County recently approved funding to begin land acquisition for a portion of the Quaker Trace trail connecting Elkhart and Bristol and longer term on to Middlebury.

Here’s what Laura Coyne of the Elkhart County Planning Department had to say about the Quaker Trace project:

With the Quaker Trace, Elkhart County’s trail system connects more communities.

Elkhart County is fortunate to have nearly 50 percent of its residents within one mile of an existing or proposed length of trail for biking, walking or running. The newest addition is the 18-mile Quaker Trace Trail, which picks up at Hively and C.R. 45, where the MapleHeart ends. In 2016, it was constructed to Echo Lane west of Bristol along CR 8. 

One Vibrant Community action item is a call to “Activate a multimodal loop countywide, and connect regionally.” Implementation has begun, with the next length along C.R. 8 under design by Elkhart County. It is a 10-foot asphalt trail from Echo Lane to the Town of Bristol along the St. Joe River. Ultimately the Quaker Trace portion of the loop will end at Krider Park in Middlebury, intersecting with the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail there.

The countywide loop takes in Goshen as well. When complete it will be part of a regional system connecting Mishawaka with Shipshewana.  You’re in for a beautiful ride!

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