by Mitchell Kirk
The organization representing a multi-use, cross-county trail going from just outside France Park to Winamac is aiming to maintain safety on the path through rules outlined in a Cass County ordinance.
The Panhandle Pathway was started in 2009 and spans about 22 miles from the south side of Winamac to three-quarters of a mile outside France Park, going through both Cass and Pulaski counties. It’s about 10 feet wide and paved with asphalt.
“We’ve been working over the last several years trying to get help enforcing the rules of the trail,” said John Bawcum, president of Friends of the Panhandle Pathway.
The rules stipulate the trail is open from dawn until dusk, require compliance with stop signs and traveling on the right side of the trail, recommend helmets for bikers and rollerbladers, allow for leashed pets and prohibit littering, vandalism, trespassing on adjoining properties and the use of motorized vehicles.
“We’re trying to keep some order on the trail and keep it safe for everyone who’s using it,” Bawcum said. “We have a lot of people who are hiking, biking and rollerblading up and down the trail and the last thing we need are mo-peds and dirt bikes and four-wheelers and horses out there running up and down the trail.”
Cass County commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the rules Monday with an amendment allowing for motor vehicles pertaining to trail maintenance, law enforcement and emergency services to use the trail.
An amendment stipulating the use of dog leashes no longer than 6 feet was included as well.
“We just want to make sure that when you’re going down the trail, you don’t have to trip over a line going over the other direction,” said Commissioner Jim Sailors.
“We’re all very excited to have such a wonderful asset in the area,” Bawcum said. “We want to maintain it in the nice condition it’s in now. We feel a strong responsibility to do the best we can to manage it and help everyone enjoy it safely.”
Bawcum said his ultimate vision for the trail is to bring it all the way to France Park and maybe in the future, even farther.
“I’d like to be able to ride from France Park to the state border,” he said.
Friends of the Panhandle Pathway meets on the last Tuesday of each month, alternating between Winamac and Royal Center. The next meeting will be 6:30 p.m. April 30 at Royal Center Town Hall, 104 E. North St., Royal Center. The public is welcome to attend.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached by phone
at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.