Q. How are trail routes chosen?
Building trails is a long, complicated process. As a nonprofit organization, Fort Wayne Trails, Inc. (“FWT”) focuses on advocacy on behalf of its trail users and fundraising to partner with government agencies and equitably expand our trail network. In addition to previously planned projects, FWT works with area citizens to assist in the development of new trails. Since the trails are ultimately public infrastructure, the City, County and State are critical partners and often the ultimate decision makers in the trail planning process. Most current and future projects in our community are being constructed by the City of Fort Wayne, or Allen County government.
To help people understand the trail building process and the roles of FWT and our government partners, here’s a rough outline of the process from start to finish.
A. Someone proposes a new trail
Any number of people can propose a trail. It could be City/County staff, community leaders, non-profit organizations like Fort Wayne Trails, or your average, every day citizen.
B. The City, County, Northeast Indiana Regional Coordinating Council (NIRCC) and others examine the request
Once the proposal is made, City, County, and NIRCC staff will assess a trail’s feasibility and how well it fits within current plans. Staff will look at the project to determine the best possible route and figure out if it’s possible to make a high quality trail in the area requested. They also look at gaps/needs in the area and connectivity to other, existing priorities. It’s important that the project not duplicate other, existing efforts (e.g. if there’s another trail planned one block over). Community feedback is often required to reflect the demand for the project to happen.
C. The project is “put on the books”
If the project is deemed feasible, government staff and others place the project as a proposed trail on the NIRCC Bicycle-Pedestrian Transportation Plan. This alone can be a long process, but it is an important step, as it alerts all departments to the project. In other words, this ensures that City Utilities, Public Works (streets), Community Development and others are aware that the project is proposed so they can plan accordingly and perhaps push along a phase if it fits in with their existing plans and funding availability.
D. A phase of the proposed trail becomes a planned trail
This is the first step to getting a phase of the trail funded. At some point, it goes from a proposed trail to a planned trail due to a number of possible reasons. For instance, it can be added to a road or utility project; it can be added to a Walk Fort Wayne Project; a donor might step up to provide “starter funds;” it provides a great deal of connectivity; etc. Fort Wayne Trails helps the City and County prioritize these trail projects by looking at connectivity to destinations and to rooftops; mileage of trails already in the quadrant; connectivity to other bike/ped infrastructure; cost per mile, etc.