During the ribbon cutting ceremony Monday to officially open the final Steuben County phase of the bike trail that connects Pokagon State Park with Angola, the four men who got the ball rolling were not there.
And it wasn’t anything intentional. The ceremony was put together in six short days, so there wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare. Beyond the three members of the Steuben County Board of Commissioners, county Councilman Dan Caruso and Angola Mayor Dick Hickman, the usual elected suspects were absent.
With all of the state money involved in the project — dating to the first leg being built in Pokagon with a state recycling grant (ground windshield glass from junk vehicles was used as part of the aggregate in the asphalt) in 2001 — there weren’t any state officials involved, like Rep. Denny Zent or Sen. Sue Glick. No representatives of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office were there. There was federal money involved, and no one from U.S. Rep. Jim Banks’ office was on hand.
It was all local, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Yes, there were officials from Pokagon on hand, but no Cameron Clark, director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources; the DNR has been instrumental in this project, including the final leg that covers some state park ground and involved state resources in the project.
We’re not faulting anyone here. I want to use my space today to give a little due and history on the project.
The four men who got the ball rolling for this project were Rep. Orville Moody, Randy White and Fred Wooley from Pokagon and local Realtor Bill Bryan. Three of the four are still living and remain in the community.
Bryan has long been an advocate for northeast Indiana, Steuben County and developing a joy for bicycling among young people in our community. Bryan used to put together an entry in the Angola Fourth of July parade that was made up of nothing but kids on bikes. He organized a bicycle give away for kids. He helped organize bicycle safety classes with the Angola Police Department. He’s the man who really took the handlebars and started this trail journey.
Early on, any time there was a trails meeting in City Hall or the Steuben Community Center, he was there, advocating for cycling and the trail project. Having spoken to him while the county trail was being built, he’s proud of what our community has done.
White and Wooley, in their leadership roles at Pokagon, saw how this trail would be an important link between the park and the community beyond. I recall the day in July 2001 when Gov. Frank O’Bannon was on hand to cut the ribbon on the very first leg with this innovative recycling project that created asphalt that sparkles. The pride in the employees of Pokagon was overwhelming.
Then there was Rep. Orville Moody. Sadly, this project took off and was celebrated some 12 years after his death in 1989. Rep. Moody, with whom I had become friends from his Angola Common Council days, was just coming into a position of power in the Indiana House.
Rep. Moody was first elected in 1984, a year after a heart-breaking, close defeat in the Republican primary for Angola mayor, losing to the eventual two-term Mayor Gerald Lett.
But now Rep. Moody was in a position in Indianapolis where he could get things done for the people of his House district. Bryan, White and Wooley couldn’t have chosen a better man to work with in Indianapolis back in 1988.
Unfortunately, Rep. Moody’s tenure would soon come to an unexpected end. That summer of 1989, when Rep. Moody would be eulogized in a ceremony at Angola Christian Church (now the T. Furth Center for Performing Arts), many of the movers and shakers in Indiana government were on hand, from elected officials to reporters who covered the Statehouse from many corners of Indiana. In five sessions of the Legislature, Rep. Moody had come into his own and was making his presence known in Indianapolis.
Fast forward to 2006. That’s when the Indiana Department of Transportation was rebuilding the West C.R. 400N bridge over Interstate 69. A trail-sized walkway was included in the design, if memory serves, thanks to the work of then-Sen. Robert Meeks, so the trail in Pokagon could connect with the rest of the trail that had yet to be built.
There was a time, in the design phase of the trail, when that walkway was not going to be part of the path to Pokagon. But it did make the final design and now takes walkers and cyclists over the highway to what is probably a beautiful vista in the park (I have not completely traveled it yet).
Most fitting, in my mind, is that walkway over I-69 is practically above the bridge over Lake Charles, the Rep. Orville Moody Memorial Bridge.