Allen County has an array of incredible natural areas, parks and nature preserves to serve the population with opportunities for hiking. All provide a setting for the fitness movement, places for family fun and exercise, and ways to address the physical fitness shortcomings of us all.

We all have common problems as parks, land trusts and recreation agencies: an area population that needs more exercise, the need for more visitors at our facilities, the need for additional funding and better publicity, and the need to educate visitors about the sustainable ways to treat natural resources. Cooperating community parks, conservation groups and resource management agencies propose the “Allen County Trailblazers” (ACT) Community Hiking Program, which could help address those issues.

Cooperating agencies have assembled a list of about 15 trails at various sites, each about 1 mile in length. Hikers who complete 10 of the listed trails will receive an award. After completing a short online signup form, so the number of participants can be tracked, you will then be able to download forms or pick up at agency offices. The Trailblazers form will have space for an agency representative to sign next to each trail and a space for the date hiked, along with participant contact information. Cooperating agency logos and contact information are included. The back of the form will have directions to the parks areas where the trails are located. These trails will change on a rotating basis over several years. Any participating agency staff member can sign the form. This is primarily an honors system, and any agency representative can sign any space on the form as long as the date hiked is filled out. The form is turned in to obtain the reward.

Program reward is a bronze medallion that can be mounted on a hiking stick. A sticker to attach to the walking stick would have the logos of all participating agencies and be included. Sticks will be available at cost (about $2). Increased funding from sponsors will allow more people to participate, and possibly add more to the award. Awards may be picked up at Metea or Fox Island County Park Nature Centers, the New Haven Parks office and the Fort Wayne Parks office. This program will run from September 1 to November 30, with the last awards given out by January 30.