Sugar Creek Water Shed at Pennsy Trails 400 West Trail Head Project

Hancock County is home to the Sugar Creek Water Shed and home to a great selection of wildlife. The United States Geological Survey has identified 31 species of fish in Sugar Creek. Fish is the basic diet of American Bald Eagles living in this water shed. I have also seen river otter, crane, owls, Pileated Woodpeckers, and a variety of hawks. The Sugar Creek Water Shed covers about one half of Hancock County and includes all the land and water draining into
the creek. The Pennsy Trails in Hancock County will travel through the middle of this water shed. We have an
opportunity to protect this valuable resource.


Protect Wildlife, Plants & Trees

  • 31 species of fish identified by
  • Mallard Ducks, river otters. salamanders, frogs
  • Oak, Maple, American Beech, American Elm
  • Basswood, Sycamore, Shagbark Hickory, evergreens
  • Flowering dogwood, Pawpaw, Spicebush
  • Spring beauties, Trillium, MayApples, Jack in Pulpit
  • Wood Nettle, White snakeroot, Solomon’s Seal
  • Ferns, grasses, sedges, woody vines
  • Wild ginger, milkweed, violets, Jacob’s ladder


Provide education for the Sugar Creek Watershed

  • Water flows through and covers one half of the county
  • Watersheds protects wildlife, trees, and plants
  • Clear water in water sheds protects property values
  • Reduce soil erosion that can lead to poor water quality
  • Watershed is at risk with growth of the county population


Pennsy Trail Watershed 400W Trail Project

  • Provide educational signs about the watershed
  • Plant trees, shrubs, plants and wildflowers along this section
  • Arrange education and playground materials
  • Use equipment to control invasive honeysuckle
  • Develop a water source for trail users
  • Write letters to different organizations
  • Organize a trail event
  • Assist with trail surveys
  • Provide community service

This will provide volunteer and leadership opportunities for students, scout troops, churches, business and work groups.  This project is being supported by The Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Soil and Water District, Indiana Native Plant and Wildlflower Society (INPAWS), Master Gardener and Master Naturalist groups.

The vision is to provide a natural play area and education for kids and adults. Businesses can support this effort by sponsoring this project. Sponsors will fund trail sections for the educational material, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, trail signs, and educational displays. Contact us at [email protected].

Mary Ann Wietbrock is a resident of New Palestine, Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, President of Pennsy Trails of Hancock County, Community Wildlife Habitat organizer, and Jacob Schramm Nature Preserve Land Steward. She was a member of the Sugar Creek Water Shed group in 2008.

Interested student and scout volunteers should write a letter to the Pennsy Trails of Hancock County Inc to include name, contact information, age and grade level, school or scout troop, and interest in how this project may help your future career or education. Thank you for your consideration in support of the Pennsy Trails of Hancock County.



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Pennsy Trail Has a New Section Open

The county now has ownership of the Pennsy Trail section between 400 West and 500 West. This section of property was made possible by Department of Natural Resources, The Town of Cumberland, Washington Village Apartments, and the Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation.
Part of the section of trail was open and walkable. Part of the trail was heavily covered with shrubs, trees, and invasive honeysuckle, and there was not a public trail access point.

The Pennsy Trail of Hancock County organized several groups this spring to work on the trail and the trailhead at 400 West. The trail was cleared at the 400 West trail head and also a walkable path was cleared. INDOT provided support by spreading gravel for the trail head. The trailhead is 56 feet wide and 123 feet long, enough space for 10 cars to park.

The trail was cleared by members and friends of the Pennsy Trails of Hancock County, Boy Scout Troop 244, Sugar Creek Firestation 42 and 45 from New Palestine, local community members, Hancock County INDOT, and members of the National Road Heritage Trail,

This trail will be an asset to this community as a safe place to enjoy the out of doors. The next step is to pave the trail as a multi-use trail for walkers, runners, riders, strollers, rollerbladers, and other non-motorized toys.

A federal transportation grant awarded for this section of trail construction is expected to arrive in 2020. We have a required 20% match in funds to raise to be able to receive this grant. Hancock Regional Hospital Foundation pledged a significant amount towards this match but there is still over $86,000 left to raise.

Donations can be made to our non-profit 501c3 group of Pennsy Trails of Hancock County Inc. at 100% of your dollars goes directly to trail construction. You will receive a letter of thanks and a Fun Family Friend activity to do on the trail.

The Pennsy Trails of Hancock County is providing this fun activity as part of National Trails Day, annually held on the first Saturday in June. The activity will be available ongoing as a way of helping others learn how to use and care for their trail.

Other events to support this effort is to attend the New Pal Fest on Saturday, June 23 rd on US 52. Tee shirts will be available and a place to park your bike. NRHT is hosting a Hancock County bike ride on Saturday, July 14th. Check our website for more info.

By Mary Ann Wietbrock

#PennsyHancock #PennsyNewPal #PennsyCumberland #PennsyGreenfield

County walking, biking trail leaders seek public opinion

Originally posted by Greenfield Reporter on 02/15/18

Providing easy access to walking and biking trails across Hancock County will not only attract new residents but provide an option for residents to improve their health, said Mary Ann Wietbrock, president of Pennsy Trails of Hancock County, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the expansion and maintenance of the county’s Pennsy Trail, which runs parallel to U.S. 40.
“We are already growing, and I think the county wants to grow healthy,” Wietbrock said.
She envisions being able to walk out of her front door, turn left or right and have access to miles of trails.

Read the full article at:

Plainfield Vandalia Trail Ride
written by Mary Ann Wietbrock

On the bright sunny Labor Day weekend, members of the Pennsy Trails of Hancock County Inc., #PennsyHancock, joined a group to ride the Plainfield Vandalia Trail. Greg Midley, President of the National Road Heritage Trail in Indiana, led the ride on Saturday, September 2nd, 2017. We started at the Plainfield Recreation and Aquatic Center and rode for 20 miles.

The Plainfield Vandalia Trail is part of the Pennsy Trails located on the west side of central Indiana. This section of trail is paved and open for 7.2 miles along the old rail bed of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The trail connects to points of interest and is accessible to many neighborhoods. We were able to ride for a full 20 miles using connecting sidewalks, parks, bridges, and tunnels.

The NRHT trail is a cross-state multi-use trail spanning over 150 miles linking 30 communities across Indiana. If you are interested, park to ride at the center located at 651 Vestal Road, Plainfield IN 46168. For more information on the National Road Heritage Trail, check out the website at

The Pennsy Trails of Hancock County Inc. is hosting a presentation of the history of the Pennsy Trails in Indiana on Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 at 7pm. The presentation is open to the public and will be located in the Sugar Creek Firestation community room 3545 S 600 W, New Palestine, IN 46163. DJ Davis will discuss the history of the Pennsy Trails in Hancock County. Greg Midley will show slides of the state plans to connect the Pennsy across the state and include how the name Vandalia was added to the trail section in Plainfield.

January 2017 Updates

The sun was shining on the Pennsy Trails today. Even though it was below 20 this morning, there were still people on the trail. The world continued on US 40, just like a normal day, while people safely walked on the Pennsy Trail, just a tenth of a mile south of US 40.

The mission of Pennsy Trails of Hancock County Inc. is to encourage the development of a walk/bike trail in Hancock County along the National Road Heritage Trail. There are currently 5 board members working towards this mission.

The Pennsy Trails Board of Directors is planning a Pennsy Trails update on Tuesday, January 24th. At 7pm the board will meet at the fire station on 600 West just north of US 52. There is a lot of information to share.

The Pennsy Trails had been under the Hancock County Community Foundations’ non-profit status since the group formed some 5 years ago. The group recently obtained an independent 501c3 non-profit status. This will open the door for many opportunities not offered by the foundation.

The board members have been busy during the holiday season. They met several times to work on a 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, and 10 year plan. A lot of thought went into how to manage this business of building trails. Transparency was a key concept to ensure successful management.

The group has identified specific goals and will share these at the meeting. Volunteers and others interested in the trail are invited to attend. There are large and small projects for different people and businesses to support.

One of the most exciting news is that donations can now be made though the United Way. These regular pay check deductions can be made through your employer. Now, how easy is that? With regular payments into the trails fund, the trail fund will grow. When completing your United Way form, select or write in Pennsy Trails of Hancock County and the funds will be sent to our account.

The group plans to have regular meetings to keep the community updated. Key leaders of the community have been invited to attend this meeting, on Tuesday January 24th. Moving forward is looking bright and we wish to share the good news with the community.

Follow us on Facebook at Pennsy Trails of Hancock County and check the web at for information, fundraisers, and contacts.

Written By Mary Ann Wietbrock:
Wietbrock is a resident of New Palestine, Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, President of Pennsy Trails Group, Community Wildlife Habitat organizer, and Jacob Schramm Nature Preserve Land Steward. She can be reached at [email protected]

County OKs Fund for Trail Project

Daily Reporter – County OKs Fund for Trail Project

Written by Samm Quinn
Published in Greenfield Reporter November 15, 2016

Pennsy Trail sign in front of Hancock County government building

     The Hancock County Council has agreed to chip in county funds to construct the first phase of the Pennsy Trail extension. Gary Pool, the county’s highway department engineer, is helping the Pennsy Trails of Hancock County group (formerly Hancock County Friends of the Pennsy Trail), which is spearheading an effort to connect the trail between Cumberland and Greenfield, apply for a federal grant to construct a one-mile leg of the project.
        And county officials have agreed to provide up to $200,000 of funding to provide a match for the grant if the organization can’t raise the money on its own. Officials expect to submit the application next month. The grant money wouldn’t be available for five more years, but the county must agree to provide an approximately $200,000 match to apply.
The trail formerly the Pennsylvania Railroad bed, runs just south of U.S. 40 and is currently broken into two sections about six miles in Greenfield and three miles in Cumberland. The 4.5-mile stretch between county roads 150W and 600W is currently unpaved. The first phase of the extension project calls for construction of a walking/biking trail south of U.S. 40 between county roads 400 and 500W in New Palestine. The trails organization has secured enough funding through a grant from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and local donations to purchase needed land to complete the first leg of the project. Organizers hope to finalize land acquisition by the start of the new year, said Mary Ann Wietbrock, president of Pennsy Trails of Hancock County.
The group also is in the process of creating a 10-year plan for the project and hopes to raise about $50,000 a year to fund the $200,000 needed to secure the federal grant, she recently told the county council. She didn’t give specific details about fundraising efforts. Last year, organizers were able to raise more than $40,000, she said .”I can’t promise we will come up with $200,000, but actually, we want to come up with much more than that because this is only one mile,” she said. Councilman Kent Fisk seemed apprehensive about agreeing to foot the bill for the match, saying the group might not raise the funds, leaving the county on the line.
     “Just so everybody is clear, what we’re being asked is to guarantee the $200,000 if they don’t raise it. My only issue is what’s the incentive then (for them to try to fundraise)?” he said. “If they get the grant, and this lady goes home and doesn’t do anything, we still are stuck with the project.”
     Commissioner Tom Stevens, who has been lobbying for the council to provide the match, said he sees the $200,000 as an investment for the county’s residents. And without the council agreeing to provide the match, a grant proposal can’t be submitted.
     “This is an important thing you’re being asked, Stevens said shortly before the council approved the match. Wietbrock said the organization plans to launch a major fundraising campaign, with many ways for individuals, businesses, and groups to donate to the effort. “You, right here are making a statement to the county that you’re supporting trails and economic development,” she said.

Trail group works with residents on proposal

Pennsy Trails of Hancock County meet with Dennis Cobb
Kristy Deer / New Palestine Press
Eileen Barada, Jamie Kehn and Lee Harris, all local residents, met with Mary Ann Wietbrock of Pennsy Trial Group and Dennis Cobb, project engineer, to look over plans for the proposed Pennsy Trail segment that might be installed in the Meadow/Havens Park.

NEW PALESTINE — Drawings of a map were on a picnic table, and a handful of people gathered around them.
They were trying to determine the best possible route for a portion of the Pennsy Trail proposed to go through the Meadow/Havens Park. It’s a community park shared by residents in the Meadow Lakes and Havens subdivisions in New Palestine. 
A trail is being designed to bridge the gap between county roads 500W and 400W.
Board members of the group hoping to purchase land to add the new section of the Pennsy Trail, along with Dennis Cobb, project engineer, and community residents gathered at the park to review ideas for the trail.
The Pennsy Trail group recently obtained a grant from the Department of Natural Resources, The Bicentennial Nature Trust Grant and the Heritage Trust Grant to purchase the property needed.
Mary Ann Wietbrock, president of Pennsy Trails group, was at the community gathering to answer questions. It’s the second time Wietbrock and trail officials have met with local residents seeking input on the trail. They plan to take what was discussed to officials from Washington Village Apartments and Cumberland for input before ironing out trail plans. 
“Everyone is working together, and that is so exciting,” Wietbrock said.
The Pennsy Trail group has proposed having the trail installed on the far north side of the community park, running east and west. Some neighbors aren’t thrilled with the idea; they’d rather see the trail placed on land in the Washington Village Apartments complex, which runs right next to the park. 
Some local residents whose homes back up to the park are concerned about privacy issues. They noted how a trail will bring strangers within several feet of their homes.
“But, we’re trying to stay positive,” local resident Eileen Barada said.
“We’d love it to be on the other side of the hill,” resident Lee Harris said, pointing to the nearby apartments. “But, unfortunately, we know that isn’t going to happen.”
He and other residents said despite some disagreement on location, they’re thrilled the project is moving ahead and look forward to having a trail for bike riding, running, walking and other outdoor activities.
Harris and other residents are hoping trail board members will consider adding funding for landscaping around the trail and money to maintain it in their grant planning process.
The proposed part of the trail is still in the early stages, and funds are still being raised to purchase all the needed land. Cumberland officials also are in the process of moving forward, extending their portion of the trail from county roads 600W to 500W.
Officials from the DNR have asked the Pennsy Trail Group to purchase the land needed for the project by the end of this year. That will close out Stage 1 of the process, Wietbrock said.
The group still needs about $120,000 to buy land. Members plan is to write more grants and do fundraising to meet the goal.
“We’ve got our bucket out,” Weitbrock said. 
Construction of the trail will not happen until 2020, but only if all the pieces of the puzzle fall in place.
This article was published in the New Palestine Press on Wednesday, June 1. Visit

By Kristy Deer
[email protected]

Pennsy Trails of Hancock County celebrates National Trails Day

The Pennsy Trails of Hancock County will celebrate National Trails Day on the annual first Saturday of June.
Saturday, the group will be at the Cumberland Farmers Market from 8 a.m. to noon.
Board members will be present to discuss the current project of the purchase of trail property between county roads 500W and 400W.
The booth will display people on the Cumberland and Greenfield sections of the trail. Outdoor recreation on the trail includes walking, biking, watching wildlife, skateboarding and wildflowers hikes. This spring, 90 Greenfield second-graders came to learn about the Pennsy on their field trip.
The group’s mission is to encourage the development of a walking/biking trail in Hancock County along the National Road Heritage Trail. The group recently obtained a grant from DNR. The Bicentennial Nature Trust Grant and the Heritage Trust grant are providing a majority of the funds to purchase property.
The group is working with The Department of Natural Resources (DNR), INDOT, First Group Engineering, The Town of Cumberland, Washington Village apartments, the county commissioners and homeowners near the proposed trail.
The Pennsy Trails received some grants but not all that were applied for. Grants were received from Hancock Regional Hospital, Hancock County Community Foundation, Hancock County Tourism Commission, Indiana Trails Fund and some private donors, both local and from Carmel. Each person and business is asked to donate.
The Pennsy Trails of Hancock County tried to raise $51,000 this past fall and fell short by $10,000. The group needs these funds to fund the title work, survey and appraisals not covered by the DNR grants. The account is held at the group’s 501(c)3 partner, Hancock County Community Foundation.
Donations can be made at Saturday’s event, mailed to Hancock County Community Foundation at 312 E. Main St., Greenfield IN 46140, or by the link at Please mark specifically for the Pennsy Trails fund.
Paul Weller,, developed the new website that went live May 4. Check it out.
Dave Meeker, #bringingtech2you, helped with social media marketing tools. It is great to have these two on the Pennsy Trails team.
Just know that someone is working every day to connect our communities with the Pennsy Trail. We want to thank the many people involved in helping make this happen. Like us on Facebook at Pennsy Trails of Hancock County.

This column was published in the New Palestine Press on Wednesday, June 1. Visit

Pennsy Trail group asks for DNR Grants

– published December 2015 in the New Palestine Press

The Department of Nature Resources, the Indiana DNR, invited the Friends of Hancock County Pennsy Trails to present our grant application to the Board of Directors. The event was held at the Indiana State Park Fort Harrison Inn. There were 15 board members representing different aspects of the Indiana DNR.

All groups that applied for this grant cycle were invited to present their information, even though six would not be considered due to a $1 million lack of funding. We were excited to be in the top of the list and were being considered for these funds. Other members attending the representation included Brad Armstrong, Hancock County Commissioner, and board members Nancy Stainbrook and Linda Hicks.

We hope the Governor will sign this grant early next year. Here is a review of the presentation.

The Pennsy Trails follows just south of US 40. Cumberland and Greenfield currently maintain 9 miles of trail with a 4.5 mile gap between these 2 communities. The goal is to connect communities with this trail. Cumberland, New Palestine, and Greenfield support this project.

Hancock County currently has very few trails leading residents participating in outdoor activities of biking, walking, running, roller blading to use county roads. There are very few safe places to view wildlife and take wildflower hikes.

This is a growing community and these properties are threatened by commercial development. The current farmlands are next to new housing additions and a large apartment complex. These residents will have access to a safe place to enjoy the out of doors. A trail head will be located at the 400 W site for public access and is in the middle of this gap.

The current project is to purchase property for a trail between 500 W and 400 W. This 1 mile stretch will spur the development of the remaining sections for a 13.5 mile trail through the center of Hancock County. This current Pennsy Trail project is important to the residents of Indiana and will lead to the connection to the Cultural Trail downtown and to the Cardinal Trail in Richmond.

The total cost of the property is estimated at $254,000. We are requesting the Bicentennial Nature Trust Fund of $127,000 with a 25% match in funding from the Indiana Heritage Trust Grant of $46,442. The remaining 25% match will come from donation of properties from the Town of Cumberland and from Washington Village Apartments.

The Friends of Hancock County Pennsy Trails are accepting donations to complete this land purchase and will be used to survey the land and for title work. They still need $10,000 to complete their $56,000 drive this fall. Donations are accepted at the Hancock County Community Foundation at

Wietbrock is a resident of New Palestine, Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, President of Pennsy Trails Group, Community Wildlife Habitat organizer, and Jacob Schramm Nature Preserve Land Steward. She can be reached at [email protected]