by Beth Stauffer

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Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful over New Haven’s Moser Park on June 29th, 2013.  Even though it wasn’t even 9 am, the parking lot was lined with cars, and beneath the pavilion walkers and runners milled about, picking out bright yellow “I Run This Trail” t-shirts and newly updated trail maps.  Nearby, the bikers stood with their bikes, helmets in hand, preparing for a mid-morning ride on the trails.

Promptly at 9 am, Superintendent of the New Haven Adams Township Parks and Recreation Department Mike Clendenen welcomed the nearly 100 people in attendance for the first ever “I Run This Trail” event held at Moser Park.  “We are here today based on an incident that happened a couple of weeks ago on our trails system,” said Clendenen in his opening remarks.  “With that being said, our trails systems are safe.  We’ve had a trails system of some form in New Haven for 10 years and this is the first incident we’ve had.  We’ve heard some things that people weren’t sure if they wanted to use the trails anymore.  I’m here to assure you that they are safe, and the more people that use the trails they safer they are for everyone.”

Clendenen said that one of the things the Parks Department wants to encourage everyone to do while using the trails is be aware of their surroundings.  With the help of Dawn Ritchie, the City of Fort Wayne’s Greenways Manager, the Parks Department installed mileage markers on the trail beginning behind the concession stand at Moser Park and marked in ½ mile increments all the way along New Haven’s portion of the trail to downtown Fort Wayne.  The Boardwalks and Rest Areas are now also identified by number.

“We want you as you utilize the trails to be aware of your surroundings,” said Clendenen.  “Keep track of those.  These mile markers are much like those on the interstate.  You want to know where you are at in the event you have a need for emergency services.”

Next, Clendenen introduced Dawn Ritchie, who provided information about the Greenway Ranger program.  The Greenway Ranger program currently has 85 rangers who patrol 72 miles of trails in Fort Wayne and New Haven.  “These rangers are trained by the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Greenways Department, and are taught what to look for in terms of safety and security issues out there on the trails on a weekly basis from April to October,” said Ritchie.  “Some of them love their job so much, they do this year round,” she added.

“I want you to know that there are trained volunteers out on our trails systems each week, and sometimes daily, and that they are looking for areas that need to be improved, or looking for security or safety issues, and again they have had extensive training thru the police department, and they work hand in hand with the police department,” remarked Ritchie.

Superintendent Clendenen next welcomed New Haven Police Officer Darren Peterson advised the attendees at Saturday’s events to be prepared to aware of their surroundings and the mile markers when using the trails.  He suggested when using ear buds on the trails, taking out your ear buds to greet and acknowledge people as you pass them by on the trail.  Officer Peterson also advised trail users to always carry a cell phone in a pocket or bag, to always use the trails with a partner or pet, and to wear brightly colored clothing to enhance visibility.

Bob Nelson and Jodi Leamon, the Parks Department Naturlaist, helped to plan the inaugural “I Run This Trail” event.  Mayor Terry McDonald and City Councilman Bob Byrd were both on hand for the event in Moser Park, along with  James from Summit City Bicycles who was riding the trails ready to help out any bicyclists in need early Saturday morning.  The New Haven Kroger store donated bottled water and fruit for participants, and the Parks Department had t-shirts to give away for all those participating in the event.

According to Superintendent Clendenen in his closing remarks, he hopes to plan more events like this one in the future for area residents.  Judging by the positive feedback the event received on Facebook and Twitter on Saturday afternoon, all those who participated in the first annual “I Run This Trail” event would like to see that happen as well.

POSTED: 06/30/13 at 6:07 am. FILED UNDER: News