Fishing Line Trail Coming to Avilla
May 12, 2022
Representatives of Noble Trails met with a group of Avilla residents on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 to discuss the extension of the Fishing Line Trail from Kendallville to Avilla. The meeting, held at the Avilla branch of the Noble County Public Library, allowed residents to hear about the proposed route and to express their opinions.
“As the final sections of trail between Rome City and Kendallville are being completed, Noble Trails is ready to move to the next communities along the route,” says Scott Allen, Noble Trails Secretary. Allen, an Avilla resident, says, “I don’t want to have to drive to Rome City or Kendallville just to ride my bike on the trail.”
The meeting included a brief history of Noble Trails and the Fishing Line Trail. Planning began before 2010. The first trail section was built near Gene Stratton Porter State Historic Site. Noble Trails credits its popularity for enabling the rest of the trail to be built so quickly.
The route from Kendallville to Avilla is proposed to follow the general route of the former Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad. Around Kendallville Iron and Metal, the route would be shifted to follow the former interurban railroad.
The most difficult routing decisions is how to cross State Road 3. “While the safest crossing would be a grade separation with a bridge or tunnel,” Allen said, “we understand the cost of that is currently beyond our means. The second option for a safe crossing is a signal to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross separately from traffic. Crossing at the existing traffic signal at Allen Chapel Road / CR 1000 East would allow a safer crossing.” Several alternative routes are being considered to reach the signalized intersection.
Most attendees expressed support and enthusiasm for the trail extension. “We are looking forward to being able to use the trail locally instead of having to use county roads or driving elsewhere,” said one local resident.
One property owner adjacent to the proposed trail route expressed concerns about public access next to his property. After stating that people are using the former railroad corridor now to trespass onto his property, harass his livestock, and dump trash, he is concerned that increased usage will make these issues worse. He stated that the same complaints have been made by farmers living near the existing Fishing Line Trail.
Noble Trails President, Terry Gaff, responded to the owner’s concerns. “This is the first time that I’ve been made aware of such complaints. These owners haven’t let us know of any problems to give us a chance to address them.” Gaff continued, “we don’t condone any trespassing, and have rules posted that require pets on leashes.” Allen added that volunteers, including from groups such as the Kendallville Rotary Club and Rome City Lions Club, have picked up trash from along the trail, much of which had been dumped for years when it was an unused corridor.
“The benefit to having the public on the trails”, Allen said, “is that there more people out there who can monitor and report bad behavior.” Gaff added, “More eyes on the trail means more safety for the patrons and neighbors of the trail.”
The adjacent owner also complained about four-wheelers late at night and people shooting firearms from the corridor. Those actions are against the rules, and Gaff encourages all neighbors to call the Sheriff’s Department if they have problems. “We worked with the County Commissioners to pass on ordinance to give the Sheriff authority to patrol the trail and issue citations.” The owner said that he has called the Sheriff with no results. Gaff committed Noble Trails to look into the situation. Allen also noted that people aren’t going to travel very far on four-wheelers at night, so he recommends that the gentlemen speak to his neighbors about the problems he is having.
The owner also expressed discontentment about $500,000 he believed the Town of Avilla had committed to trails. Avilla Town Manager, Tena Woenker, responded that the Town has not committed any money to the trail. The Town has included some sidewalk improvements along Ley Street as part of the other improvements along the street, just as they have done with other street improvement projects along Albion Street. Woenker believes that the comment may reference an estimate of $500,000 for trail construction included in the Parks Department’s 5-Year Master Plan. While that inclusion shows support for the Fishing Line Trail, the conceptual estimate shows the funds as coming from Noble Trails and state grants, and does not suggest any financial commitment from the Town of Avilla.
No cost estimates have been developed for the trail, but Gaff noted that the costs for the current trail have been less than $150,000 per mile. Much of the preliminary work is being done by Noble Trails volunteers , keeping costs down. However, with recent material cost increases, Noble Trails expects costs to go up. Regarding schedules, Allen replied, “As soon as we raise enough funds to do a section of trail, the money goes right out to place asphalt on the ground.” The current plan is to start at the south end and extend the trail northward giving Avilla residents something to visualize for the rest of the route.