Prairie Trails Club

2017 and 2016 Meeting Minutes

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Feb 9, 2016

MEETING MINUTES OF PRAIRIE TRAILS CLUB, INC.

 

North Judson-Wayne Township Library

208 Keller Avenue

North Judson, IN

 

February 9, 2016

 

[Annual Meeting]

 

 

MEMBER ATTENDEES

 

Linda Byer

Paul Byer

Susan DeSantis

Bruce Fingerhut

Kathleen Lucas

Martin Lucas

Steve Lucas

Greg Wittig

Karen Wittig

 

Call to Order

 

Bruce Fingerhut, President, called to order a meeting of the Prairie Trails Club at 6:36 p.m., CST on February 9, 2016 in the North Judson-Wayne Township Library.

 

Approval of Minutes

 

The draft minutes of the meeting held on July 25, 2015 were approved, without amendment, by acclamation. 

 

DNR Division of Outdoor Recreation Questionnaire (Ind. Code 14-19-1-1.5)

 

Bruce reported on the Prairie Trails Club’s participation in a questionnaire from the Division of Outdoor Recreation of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.  Steve Lucas said the questionnaire was the result of direction from the Indiana General Assembly in 2015 House Bill 1471 (now Ind. Code 14-19-1-1.5).  Before March 1, 2016 the Division of Outdoor Recreation is to “develop guidelines concerning recreational trails and amend the guidelines as necessary or advisable thereafter.”  In developing the guidelines the Division of Outdoor Recreation was to “consult with various groups, organizations and agencies that will be impacted by the guidelines.”

 

Last fall the Division of Outdoor Recreation prepared an initial questionnaire and forwarded it to the PTC as an organization that might be affected.  The PTC prepared a response and submitted the response electronically to the Division of Outdoor Recreation on October 27, 2015. 

 

Linda Byer reflected her understanding that the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum, Inc. is the owner of the trail right-of-way.  She asked why the Prairie Trails Club would respond to the questionnaire.  Steve said the questionnaire was sent to a broader spectrum of interested persons than just trail owners.  Our electronic response to the Division of Outdoor Recreation stated the Prairie Trails Club assisted with trail maintenance but was not the trail owner.

 

Bruce said the Division of Outdoor Recreation recently forwarded a follow-up questionnaire that includes draft guidelines.  The deadline for response to the follow-up questionnaire is February 21, 2016.

 

Steve observed the draft guidelines seem to have incorporated many of the comments from our October 2015 responses, and probably the responses of other similar organizations, to last year’s questionnaire.  For the most part he felt the draft guidelines were acceptable but probably yet needed clarification.  He said it was worth noting that the final product would be guidelines and not rules.  Rules have the force of law, but guidelines do not.

 

Martin expressed concerns about the draft guidelines as they pertain to trail mowing.  The most pertinent portions of the draft guidelines for mowing provide:

 

(4) Tree, weed, and brush removal between responsible parties and landowners adjacent to recreational trails.  Trail managers should strive to be good neighbors and stewards by keeping their property well-maintained and should follow local laws and ordinances concerning weeds, invasive species, etc….

 

(5) Mowing responsibility.  Trail managers and neighbors should respect each other’s property and only mow the property they own unless agreed to otherwise.

 

  • Both parties should respect low mow, no spray zones, natural growth and other environmentally sensitive areas.

 

  • Trails that will share or use land owned by a local governmental entity should strive to reach an agreement prior to trail construction about easement or right-of-way mowing responsibility.

 

  • Local ordinances regarding mowing should be followed.

 

Marty reflected that the NJ Erie Trail was a mostly-rural trail that provides an extraordinary experience for users.  Our “over-arching goal should be to provide a natural experience” in a habitat that is more natural than on many other trails.  The guidelines should not be construed to establish a mowing mandate.  “The goal should not be a manicured experience.”

 

Susan DeSantis reflected that the area adjacent to the bench she donated in Aldine is mowed regularly.  Also, mowing at road intersections would encourage public safety.  Linda added that even within sensitive natural areas mowing might sometimes be warranted, but mowing should be applied judiciously and to support rather than conflict with natural processes.

 

A consensus was developed that the over-arching goal for the NJ Erie Trail should be to provide a natural experience.  Particular circumstances exist where mowing makes sense, including rest areas and public safety.  But mowing should not be the principle upon which trail maintenance is measured or defined.

 

Linda reflected the draft guidelines probably underlined the need for a working agreement between the Prairie Trails Club and the HVRM.  Marty and Gregg Wittig concurred.

 

After an extensive discussion, the PTC membership agreed to endorse the following recommended amendments to the Division of Outdoor Recreation’s draft guidelines:

 

In draft item (4), the following amendments are recommended to the final sentence of the introductory paragraph:

 

                Trail managers should strive to be good neighbors and stewards by keeping their property well-maintained and should follow local laws and ordinances concerning weeds, invasive species, etc.  Appropriate maintenance should consider local site conditions, including the importance of natural vegetation and public safety.  Managers should be respectful of state laws and local ordinances concerning the control of weeds and invasive species.

 

In draft item (5), second bullet, the following amendments are recommended:

 

                Trails that will share or use An organization that manages a trail on land owned by a government entity or nongovernmental organization should strive to reach an agreement about easement or right-of-way mowing responsibilities.  For a new trail the effort should be made prior to trail construction about easement or right-of-way mowing responsibility.  In drafting an agreement the parties should consider local site conditions, including likely users and the potential for a natural  experience, natural and cultural resources, and public safety.

                                                                                                                                       

Trail Signage and Shelters

 

Kathleen Lucas reported on an exploratory discussion earlier in the day with Sarah Origer, Director of Development for the Starke County Community Foundation.  The Starke County Community Foundation operates under the umbrella of the Northern Indiana Community Foundation which also includes the Fulton County Community Foundation and the Miami County Community Foundation. 

 

The primary purpose of the meeting was to explore funding opportunities for signage along the NJ Erie Trail.  Kathy and Steve previously asked Yancy Lucas and lucascorraldesign.com to develop a concept for interpretative and informational signs.  Paper copies of illustrations were shared with the members during the meeting to include subjects such as railroad history, bicentennial state (and the simultaneous sesquicentennial North Judson) celebrations, Lena Park history, Aldine history, Round Lake archaeology and Bass Station history.

 

Sarah Origer has identified a possible benefactor to help support the cost of one sign near North Judson.  If a project is to move forward, approval is needed from the HVRM.  Origer would also consult with the potential benefactor to determine if she has interest.  But before either of these contingencies would be addressed, Kathy said she and Steve wanted to determine if the Club membership was supportive.  If so she would inform Origer to contact the potential benefactor.  If not Kathy would ask Origer to not proceed.  Steve added that funding was not being sought from the PTC—only a reflection of whether there was conceptual support.  If the project moves forward, refinements could be made to particular signage projects.

 

Bruce said he supported the concept.  He added that Mark Bailey has also expressed interest in providing the materials for a shelter at Range Road, possibly to include signage.  Kathy asked Bruce if she could share this possibility with Origer.  He responded that she could.

 

Marty said he believed the concept should be advanced incrementally.  More public interest would be generated by adding signage sites annually rather than all at once.

 

Linda and Paul Byer recommended signage be developed for sites that could be monitored to discourage theft.  To the extent practicable, materials and designs should be used that would not lend themselves theft.  Bruce said he would like to participate in the design and selection of materials.  Steve and Kathy said they would welcome active participation in project development by all PTC members.

 

By acclamation the members expressed conceptual support for the signage project and urged Kathy to inform Sarah Origer of the PTC’s endorsement.

 

Treasurer and Membership

 

Steve emphasized the need to invite all members to participate in meetings.  He expressed the opinion that the Prairie Trails Club needs a complete membership list and then needs to use the list for meeting notices.  Annual dues can be paid through PayPal on the PTC’s or the Northern Indiana Community Foundation’s websites.  But without access to the PayPal accounts, a complete list cannot be developed.  Only the president is now authorized to review the PTC’s account to determine who is current with dues.

 

Marty reflected that more than one person needs to be able to access the account.  Linda reflected that the PTC would be assisted with keeping funding balances and assuring that members are informed of activities by having a treasurer.  Kathy said she would serve as secretary but would be pleased to support any other member who might volunteer.  No one else volunteered.

 

By acclamation the members agreed to add treasurer to the existing PTC officers of president, vice president and secretary.  Bruce indicated he would provide the secretary with the necessary password or passwords.

 

 

Lifetime Membership

 

Susan expressed interest in approving a lifetime membership fee as an option to the current annual membership fee.  Bruce responded he was not sure what the appropriate fee would be for a lifetime membership.  Marty reflected most similar organizations have lifetime membership as an option.  The subject may be placed on the agenda of a future meeting for consideration.

 

 

March 22, 2016

MEETING MINUTES OF

PRAIRIE TRAILS CLUB, INC.

 

North Judson-Wayne Township Library

208 Keller Avenue

North Judson, IN

 

March 22, 2016

 

 

MEMBER ATTENDEES

 

Paul Byer

Susan DeSantis

Bruce Fingerhut

Kathleen Lucas

Steve Lucas

Rhonda Milner

Greg Wittig

Karen Wittig

 

Call to Order

 

Bruce Fingerhut, President, called to order a meeting of the Prairie Trails Club at 6:34 p.m., CDT on March 22, 2016 in the North Judson-Wayne Township Library.

 

Approval of Minutes

 

Susan DeSantis moved to approve the minutes of the annual meeting held on February 9, 2016 without amendment.  Karen Witting seconded the motion.  On a voice vote the    motion carried.

 

Treasurer’s Report

 

Kathleen Lucas provided the first Treasurer’s Report.  She indicated funds for the Prairie Trails Club (PTC) are in two accounts.  The First National Bank of Monterey in North Judson had a balance yesterday (March 21) of $553.37.  For 2015 the Northern Indiana Community Foundation (NICF) showed net receipts of $1,717.00.  She distributed copies of the Treasurer’s Report to the members present.  Gifts and membership dues were itemized by source and individual.  She acknowledged Corinne Becknell Lucas for her assistance on short notice in assembling the information and also expressed appreciation to Bruce for his extraordinary financial support.

 

Membership dues and contributions may be made through PayPal either on the PTC website or the NICF website.  The IRS approved NICF as a 501(c)(3) corporation.  A taxpayer who makes a donation to a 501(c)(3) corporation can take a charitable deduction if the taxpayer itemizes deductions on a federal income tax return.  The PTC was registered in Indiana as a not-for-profit corporation but is not approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) corporation.

 

Susie said she was unable to locate the PayPal option on the PTC website.  Bruce and Kathy have used the PTC PayPal site successfully.  One possibility is a superseded PTC website is still visible online.  Kathy indicated she would clarify and pass along the current PTC website URL.  In response to a question from Kathy to Bruce, he said the PTC web provider, Precept Partners, indicated she can pass along updates directly to the provider.  If the updates require less than an hour of work a service fee would not result.  Bruce added that funds to NICF in the Treasurer’s Report from Urban Soles, Inc. represented the sale of PTC T-shirts.

 

Kathy said she needed the members to set a due date for membership fees.  The subject was discussed briefly during the February 9 meeting but a decision was not reached.  Rhonda Milner, Vice President, said in a prior year the date was set as August 1.  Bruce agreed and said a different date could be chosen but suggested August 1 made sense.  The date was consistent with high usage by trail users, and particularly cyclists, and when they might be most focused on riding enjoyment.  Following discussion there was a consensus that the August 1 date should be affirmed for 2016 and applied indefinitely going forward.  A person paying membership dues in 2016 would not owe dues again until August 1, 2017.

 

The membership concluded the discussion of the Treasurer’s Report and thanked Kathy for her efforts.  The members asked her to seek additional information from the NICF before the new meeting: (1) the total amount in the PTC fund; and (2) the amount of NICF fees for maintaining the PTC fund. 

 

Cooperation with the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum Regarding Trail Management

 

Bruce reaffirmed that the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum (HVRM) is the trail owner.  He suggested the PTC needed to work more closely with the HVRM in accomplishing mutual goals.  Several possible initiatives were discussed.  Recent vandalism at the Bogus Run bridge required a 10-hour restoration effort by Warren Burke and him.  The effort was supported by an HVRM volunteer.  The Starke County Surveyor removed displaced railroad ties from Bogus Run because the watercourse is a legal drain.  The PTC will revisit the cooperative strategies during the next meeting.

 

Spring Trail Maintenance and Activity Planning

 

Spring Trail Maintenance Initiative on April 16

 

The membership selected April 16, 2016 as the date for our annual spring trail maintenance initiative.  The initiative was tentatively scheduled for 9:00 a.m., CDT at the rest park (intersection of the NJ Erie Trail and Indiana Highway 10), subject to modification in the event of inclement weather.  

 

Paul Byer reported that in January he and Linda Byer pursued the suppression of honeysuckle plants along the trail between County Road 800 South and U.S. 35.  Several members identified honeysuckle as the most serious invasive infestation, and the plant is a likely target of the April 16 initiative.

 

National Trails Day on June 4

 

This year the American Hiking Society has designated June 4 as National Trails Day, the country’s largest celebration of trails.  Linda and Martin Lucas are planning a field trip along the trail for the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) to help us celebrate National Trails Day.  Marty indicated by email he will seek to partner with a botanical professional.

 

Boy Scouts Trail Maintenance Assistance on June 11, July 9 or July 23

 

Rhonda said cemetery maintenance needs have reduced the Boy Scouts’ availability for trail maintenance initiatives.  The PTC needs to move forward quickly if we hope to receive their support.  She asked Bruce when he would be available to work with the Boy Scouts.  Bruce offered June 11, July 9 and July 23 as potential dates.  If a date or dates can be agreed, the hope is other club members would also participate.

 

Mint Festival Weekend on June 17 through 19

 

Under consideration is sponsorship of a booth during the Mint Festival Weekend.  A booth might serve an important informational purpose and gain membership or donations.  A booth could provide an opportunity for distribution of the Greenways Foundation’s new “Trails & Greenways of Indiana” brochure, accompanied by a minimalist version of the PTC’s NJ Erie Trails map and a donation envelope.

 

Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay on October 7 

 

Rhonda reported on Starke County efforts to participate with the Indiana Department of Tourism in the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay.  She said she was unsure to what extent Starke County would be included in final plans.  [Rhonda learned the day after the PTC meeting that the Bicentennial Torch Relay is scheduled to enter Starke County on the afternoon on October 7, 2016.  The route would pass the Bass Station trailhead at U.S. 35 shortly after entering Starke County from Pulaski County.  The route would cross the NJ Erie Trail at the rest park and then pass by the HVTM before completing the day in Knox.  Before entering Starke County the Bicentennial Torch Relay visits Winamac with activities included at the Panhandle Pathway.  Rhonda shared a State of Indiana website showing the complete schedule of the Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay.]

 

Media Coverage

 

The membership agreed there is a misunderstanding of how the trail receives financial support.  The NJ Erie trail was constructed primarily with government grants (the State of Indiana for the western one-third and the Federal Government for the eastern two-thirds).  But volunteers from the PTC and our friends perform the maintenance and the advancement of trail improvements such as new signage, benches and shelters.  Improved public understanding can be achieved through media sources. Member examples of media that might be amenable to PTC information included WKVI radio and internet streaming, the HVRM newsletter and local newspapers.  PTC information to visual media would ideally include electronic images (such as photographs). 

 

Trail Signage and Fixtures Update

 

Steve Lucas said efforts are continuing with the NICF to receive assistance with informational signage.  An endowment has been identified which may be promising, and the NICF is seeking to clarify benefactor intent.  

 

Bruce reflected that Warren Burke proposed pavement stenciling to help underscore the trail rule that dogs must be leashed, and he asked for a membership discussion of the proposal.  The discussion led to a broader member consideration of rule enforcement.  Members expressed doubt that at this time stenciling the dog-leash requirement would support compliance or enforceability.  But future developments might cause the subject to be reconsidered.

 

Kathy noted she was continuing to collect plastic caps with the goal of providing a bench or table on the trail made from recycled materials.  Paul and Linda Byer, Greg and Karen Witting, and Rhonda Milner all contributed caps at the meeting.

 

 

Adjournment

 

The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m., CDT.  

May 18, 2016

MEETING MINUTES OF

PRAIRIE TRAILS CLUB, INC.

 

North Judson-Wayne Township Library

208 Keller Avenue

North Judson, IN

 

May 18, 2016

 

 

MEMBER ATTENDEES

 

Linda Byer

Paul Byer

Bruce Fingerhut

Kathleen Lucas

Steve Lucas

Anita McMillin

Brian McMillin

Greg Wittig

 

Call to Order

 

Bruce Fingerhut, President, called to order a meeting of the Prairie Trails Club (the PTC) at 6:35 p.m., CDT on May 18, 2016 in the North Judson-Wayne Township Library.

 

Approval of Minutes

 

Anita McMillin moved to approve the minutes of the annual meeting held on March 22, 2016 without amendment.  Greg Witting seconded the motion.  On a voice vote the motion carried.

 

Treasurer’s Report

 

Kathleen Lucas provided the Treasurer’s Report.  She indicated the PTC account at the First National Bank of Monterey in North Judson showed no transactions since April 29, 2016 and has a balance of $553.37.  The Northern Indiana Community Foundation (NICF) report for the PTC showed a balance on April 1, 2016 of $3,813.46 and a generous donation from Anita and Brian McMillin of $250.  For this period NICF had administrative fees of $5 and Precept Partners $216 for website maintenance and updates.  The NICF balance was $3,842.46.  PayPal Inc. had no transactions since the last report and a balance of $5.91.  The total PTC balance was $4,401.74.

 

Brian McMillan asked about annual dues.  The members responded that at the last meeting they agreed to confirm August 1 as the due date.

 

Kathy asked if she should circulate a dues request to past members in the next couple of weeks.  A follow-up request could then be made just before the August 1 due date for those who have not yet paid.  The members responded her suggested approach was a good one.

 

 

Follow-Up on Scheduling of Special Events

 

The spring trail maintenance initiative was held successfully as scheduled on April 16.  The initiative focused on invasive species control at and in both directions from the crossing of CR 400E.  More than a dozen volunteers participated.

 

Notices of this meeting and the April 16 initiative were posted on the PTC website  The members spoke generally about how future meetings and other events might be more broadly publicized.  Greg indicated the weekly Starke County Leader will post meeting announcements.  Bruce added that the HVRM includes items in its regular newsletter.  Steve Lucas said he would assist with submitting items to the HVRM if an appropriate contact person could be identified.

 

National Trails Day on June 4

 

Linda Byer reported plans are moving forward with a field trip along the trail for the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS).  The field trip is tentatively set to begin at 9:00 a.m., CDT on June 4, National Trails Day.  Martin Lucas has agreed to help guide the tour.  Marty has been conferring with Derek Luchik of The Nature Conservancy in anticipation of the field trip.  Participants in the field trip would meet at the trailhead on SR 10.

 

Linda reminded the members that three sites have been identified and shared with the DNR Division of Nature Preserves which may warrant special consideration as native prairie remnants.  These sites are east of CR 100W, East of CR 125E and in sandy highlands west of Fell Ditch.

 

Linda has been in contact with Tom Post, Northwest Regional Ecologist for the Division of Nature Preserves.  Tom is scheduled to be outside Indiana on June 4 but has agreed to preview the sites.  The exact timing of the preview has not been set but is penciled in for the afternoon of May 25.  Members would be welcome to attend and listen and learn.

 

Mint Festival Weekend on June 17 through 19

 

The members by consensus developed an outline to participate in the Mint Festival Weekend.  Kathy agreed to contact Mint Festival President, Donna Henry, to seek approval for a booth site and to pay any site rental fee.  Kathy would provide booth coverage on Saturday morning.  Brian and Anita provide coverage on Saturday afternoon.  Paul and Linda would cover on Sunday.  There would not be Friday coverage, and the extent of member coverage on other days would depend on public interest and weather conditions.

 

The members suggested distributing bundled trails maps of the NJ Erie Trail and the Greenways Foundation with its statewide coverage.  A map and T-shirt could provide an interesting backdrop for the booth.

 

Boy Scouts Trail Maintenance Assistance on June 11, July 9 or July 23

 

The goal remains to seek Boy Scout assistance for a trail maintenance project this summer, but additional details have not yet been formulated.

 

Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay in October

 

Kathy reported that Rhonda Milner informed her the State of Indiana has modified the scheduled October Indiana Bicentennial Torch Relay as reported in the PTC March 22 Minutes.  Details will follow and this subject will be revisited at the next meeting.

 

 

Update on Lids-for-Bench Project

 

Kathy provided an update on the Lids-for-Bench Project.  She said response from the members has been extremely encouraging.  Brian and Anita provided two large bags at the opening of the meeting with contributions from themselves and Rhonda.  Earlier donations were referenced in prior minutes.  Kathy communicated recently with Green Tree Plastics, LLC that she hopes will incorporate qualified lids into a bench or other trail improvement.  More than 900 entities from across the U.S. have worked successfully with this Evansville company to provide similar amenities.  She said she still needs to identify a local youth group to serve as the PTC’s co-sponsor.

 

Kathleen has previewed lid donations in an effort to understand Green Tree Plastics standards.  The great majority of prior donations appear to comply.  The lids would be sorted with the youth-group co-sponser.  Although Kathy has not yet been able to weigh the lids collected, they probably exceed half of what is needed for a bench.  She said she would circulate to members a copy of standards as set forth by the company.

 

Adjournment

 

The meeting was adjourned at 7:56 p.m., CDT.  

 

 

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