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The Journal Gazette

  • Henry

  • McDonald

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Sunday, November 12, 2017 1:00 am

At the 100-mile mark, a trail of progress

Tom Henry, Terry McDonald and Nelson Peters

This week we celebrate the 100th mile of our Trail Network: a system that safely connects residents, neighborhoods and businesses. It's an important milestone that improves our quality of life and offers economic opportunity.

The idea of connecting and extending our trail system has been a long-term dream that is becoming reality as we reach the completion of our 100th mile. Our trail network connects rural and urban areas, bringing us closer to nature and our rivers, and offers us recreation, exercise and safe transportation to many destinations. Trails are an essential part of our future and will enrich lives for decades to come; they will push our economy to grow further than we can imagine.

When companies decide to relocate or expand, quality of life amenities are often one of the most important factors they consider. Employers tell us it's common for young professionals, potential employees, to ask about the trail network when they're considering a move to the community. They want connectivity.

Conversely, it's common for local retailers and apartment complexes to use the trail network as a sales component. Realtors are aware that studies across the country suggest that trails near your home increase property values by an average of 3 percent to 5 percent. They understand trails are good for business.

As partners, your local government leaders are committed to our trail network. By working together, we've not only reached the significant mark of 100 trail miles, we've developed plans for future connections that will grow our network throughout our communities and our entire county. We are also collaborating with adjacent counties to extend trail connections throughout northeast Indiana. Partnerships with the state and the Federal Highway Administration are important, but the success of our trail network goes far beyond government funding. We cannot do it alone.

We all should be proud that our business community has not only stepped up to build trail connections on their properties but has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in property access for some of our trail construction, and has contributed more than $6.5 million to non-profit advocacy groups, such as Fort Wayne Trails Inc. We encourage businesses to continue to support trail partnerships that will connect our neighborhoods to their businesses.

Celebrating 100 miles is a momentous occasion for each and every one of us, but we're not done yet.

We will continue working together for future expansions – knowing that our investment in trails today will leave a strong legacy for generations to come. And we are working with other nearby counties to connect our network even further.

Our trails belong to all of us. They are accessible to all ages and all residents. Between now and the end of the year, we encourage all of you to take a few steps on our trails to celebrate our 100th mile. You can now journey from Waynedale to Shoaff Park or from Moser Park in New Haven to West Hamilton Road in Aboite Township without ever leaving the trail system. Our 100 miles of trails offer a better and safer way to walk, jog or bicycle out in the fresh air, helping people get to destination points safely, enjoy nature and become more physically fit.

Tom Henry is mayor of Fort Wayne; Terry McDonald is mayor of New Haven; and Nelson Peters is an Allen County commissioner.