October 25, 2022 - Local officials and trail advocates gathered on Tuesday, October 25th, 2022 on the Pufferbelly Trail section of the Poka-Bache Connector Trail to reveal the economic impact of this 81-mile regional trail. This visionary trail was conceptualized in 2006 in an effort to connect Pokagon State Park in Angola, Indiana to Ouabache State Park in Bluffton, Indiana.  Once completed, it will connect four counties and seven cities and towns, resulting in a network of over 121,000 people, 140 recreational areas, 10 libraries, and 50 schools within a mile of the trail. 

During the press conference Senator Dennis Kruse, member of the Indiana Legislative Trails Caucus, remarked, “the Poka-Bache Connector Trail is an important facility to northeast Indiana and needs citizen involvement from all to bring it to fruition.” 

“The Poka-Bache Connector Trail is a vital piece in our collective efforts to bring more recreational opportunities for residents and visitors,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “It’s critical that we continue to provide quality of life amenities as it will position our region for current and future success. Investing more resources in trails will lead to more economic growth.”

In June 2021, the Poka-Bache Trail Coalition was formed with 39 members representing local public agencies, non-profit trail groups, state and federal agencies, community foundations, visitors’ bureaus and community members to explore the economic impact this regional trail will have on northeast Indiana and to discuss how to accelerate trail development to finalize the remaining 38 miles that are yet to be constructed.

Fort Wayne Trails, Inc., on behalf of the Poka-Bache Trail Coalition, hired the Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW) Community Research Institute (CRI) to conduct an economic impact study of the Poka-Bache Connector Trail as it relates to the construction of the trail and the consumer spending resulting from the trail.  This study was conducted using a regional perspective as well as a county-by-county perspective due to the unique economies within each county region.

Jennifer Sharkey, Chair of the Poka-Bache Trail Coalition, revealed the economic impact of the Poka-Bache Connector Trail as it relates to constructed trails, future trails, and visitor-retail spending.  Trails that have already been constructed have resulted in an economic impact of over $42 million with approximately 265 jobs supported.  It is projected that the remaining 38 miles of trail to be built will have an economic impact of over $136 million and will support 858 jobs in the region.  Unlike the one-time economic benefit of trails constructed and trails to be constructed, the visitor-retail spending is an annual event that is projected at $6.4 million per year, supporting over 67 jobs per year.  This economic benefit to the region will only grow as more trail users frequent the Poka-Bache Connector Trail and notoriety grows for this unique regional asset.

This analysis only reflects the Poka-Bache Connector Trail, not the entire trail network within the four-county region.  Including all the trail networks within northeast Indiana would reveal a much larger economic impact for our communities.  While trail infrastructure is largely funded by tax dollars or other public funding, this one-time investment yields annual returns of private dollars through the visitor-spending economic impact.  For trails, this public funding of infrastructure results in private dollars being spent and support of local employment year after year. 

“To accelerate development of this important trail corridor and realize the economic benefit it brings to our region, the Poka-Bache Trail Coalition has taken the initiative to facilitate an inter-local agreement among the eleven local public agencies to create a task force that will focus on collaboration and partnership to bring this visionary trail to life” said Rick Ring, coalition member and president of the DeKalb County Council.

For more information on the Poka-Bache Connector Trail, please visit www.nircc.com/bicycle--pedestrian.html