KENDALLVILLE — Noble Trails expects to complete the Fishing Line Trail from Kendallville to Rome City by the end of the year, but board president Dr. Terry Gaff says the organization is already looking ahead.

Construction was in progress Wednesday on the trail segment behind Carriage House Apartments and at the crossing on S.R. 3. An API crew had installed a new culvert in the ditch along S.R. 3 and were spreading the stone base in preparation for paving from S.R. 3 to Riley Road. A short segment from Friendly Village to U.S. 6 will also be finished.

Dr. Gaff praised the City of Kendallville for its willingness to partner with Noble Trails to connect residents to the trail. The city is working on a trail path along U.S. 6 to improve pedestrian and bike safety from Fairview Boulevard to Walmart. The Fishing Line Trail will connect to a new multipurpose sidewalk at Fairview.

Noble Trails is now turning an eye to operations and maintenance of the Fishing Line Trail, which follows the railroad bed of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad. Dr. Gaff said Indiana’s Rails to Trails program has expanded trail creation because construction is lest costly on a railroad bed. Abandoned railroad lines already have the firm stone base needed to support a trail surface, so there is less preparation to do before paving.

Railroad crews in the 1800s built the firm base through swamps, lowlands, forests and prairies to make a level, smooth path for trains. Using the railroad right of way whenever possible makes sense, Gaff said.

Noble Trails is working to ensure safety and minimize risk for trail users, too.

“We want to keep everyone safe and as active as possible,” Dr. Gaff said as he walked along the trail from Angling Road toward Stonebraker Drive on Wednesday.

GPS coordinates and sign markers will be added soon to aid Noble County 911 dispatchers in responding to pedestrians or cyclists who have an injury or emergency.

Signage indicates where crosswalks are for motorists. Rules to use the trails are also posted at entry points to the trail. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail, and that includes ATVs, electric scooters and motorized bicycles.

“Those are not our rules,” Dr. Gaff said. “It is state law.”

Gaff said the Noble County trail ordinance specifies a speed limit of 20 mph but that state law restricts trail use to walkers and cyclists.

A new group of board members, frequent trail users and other volunteers has been organized as Noble Trails Stewards to assist in enforcing the rules and dealing with reports of abuse. They wear neon green vests with a “Noble Trails Steward” badge to identify themselves. Police officers are among the frequent trail users, Gaff said, and law enforcement keeps an eye on the trail as well.

Gaff said Noble Trails had already had reports of ATV riders on the trail. The speed of ATVs puts walkers and cyclists in danger because they have less time to react and move out of the way when the ATV approaches, he said.

Noble Trails Stewards will also watch for places where repairs are needed or tree limbs fall on the path. Trail users are encouraged to contact Noble Trails when issues arise.

As the Fishing Line trail nears completion, Noble Trails is already pursuing the development of new trails to connect Kendallville and Avilla, and take the Fishing Line Trail further north into Rome City. Noble Trails is partnering with Indiana & Michigan Power-AEP for the route to Avilla, since the electric utility owns a lot of the railroad right of way. The goal is to open that segment sometime in 2020.

Gaff said a recent acquisition of right of way near the former Limberlost Golf Course will allow the trail to connect with Lions Drive, taking the trail all the way into town.

And for trail users who need a little extra motivation, there’s the possibility of a sweet reward while traveling the Fishing Line Trail.

“There’s ice cream at both ends,” Gaff said, chuckling.

A Dairy Queen is near the trail in Kendallville and the seasonal Sundaes on Sylvan ice cream shop is in Rome City.

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