What the communities of East Allen County love about where they live

Just beyond Fort Wayne’s borders, more than 100,000 people live in the rural communities of Allen County.

Now, more than 56,200 residents of the East Allen County School district are making a name for themselves.

Known collectively as the NewAllen Alliance, their cities and towns include: New Haven, Harlan, Hoagland, Grabill, Leo-Cedarville, Monroeville, and Woodburn.

Seven communities make up the NewAllen Alliance.

For the last several years, these seven communities have been creating and executing a comprehensive strategy for redeveloping their downtowns, parks, housing, and transportation systems.

This year, they’re one of the finalists selected for Indiana’s highly coveted Stellar Community Awards, which could fast-track their plans for progress.

The Indiana Stellar Communities program was originally designed to focus on individual communities, but it has recently been expanded to focus on regions, and the NewAllen Alliance is the largest region applying.

While the announcement won’t be made until mid-November, members of the Alliance are already hard at work, raising support for their goals.

Earlier this summer, they hosted speakers from Ball State University and the Indiana Communities Institute to discuss how "communities help regions, and regions help communities.”

 Members of the NewAllen Alliance meet monthly to share ideas and discuss plans for East Allen County.

With that topic in mind, residents of each East Allen community shared the regional assets they see in their respective communities (in addition to the East Allen County Schools system, which was mentioned throughout).

Here’s what the people of East Allen County love about where they live:

New Haven

New Haven has a "small town feel" with "big city" amenities nearby in Fort Wayne, residents said. They praised the new Community Center and renovations at Jury Pool as two of the most valuable assets that have contributed to the city’s growth. The pool offers lap lanes, splash pads, diving boards, and slides. Other assets in New Haven include the regional trails system, and the "can do" attitude exemplified by its many service clubs. Recently, the New Haven Community Foundation was developed to help local businesses build on their success, too.

Harlan

Like New Haven, Harlan listed “volunteerism” as a key component of its success. The town is home to organizations and community members willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. Harlan Park and the annual Harlan Days Festival in August are two more elements that make it a great place to live, as well. Stop by and see for yourself sometime. It’s just a short 6 minute drive from I-469 on Fort Wayne Indiana’s Northeast side.

Hoagland

Hoagland residents pointed to the affordability of housing, low taxes, and a "civic friendliness" that embraces everyone who visits or moves to the town as its assets. A spirit of togetherness and camaraderie were also cited as valuable community characteristics its residents share. The town contributes to regional inclusion as home to the Indiana Buddhist Temple, which is open to the public for meditation and cultural education.

Grabill

For forty-five years, the Grabill Country Fair has been a community "staple" that has attracted thousands of people to the town known for its antique shops and Amish farms. Residents in Grabill appreciate their productive Amish neighbors who attract tourists to their town, build thriving enterprises, and contribute to a diverse workforce in the region. Access to transportation was also listed as a draw with Waterloo Amtrak Train Station nearby.

Leo-Cedarville

Like Grabill, Leo-Cedarville is also close to the Amtrak Train Station. Its residents boasted about their new Riverside Garden as an "all-inclusive" park with a splash pad, play creek, playground, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and paved trails. Not to mention the natural beauty of its Cedarville Reservoir. They also talked about the city’s new housing and nearby access to Fort Wayne with the added benefits of a countryside lifestyle.

Monroeville

Monroeville residents talked about the town's services—its first-class library, nursing home, and parks system as its assets. They also hinted about some "big development" coming soon, but left the audience in suspense about what exactly these might be. The rest of the region should stay tuned.

Woodburn

Increased infrastructure and an expanding industrial park were listed as Woodburn's assets, along with an active Main Street organization, excellent educational opportunities, and a highly spiritual community home to four major churches.

So there you have it. Northeast Indiana is evolving, and East Allen County plays a large role in that.

As a whole, the region has a few bragging points to talk about, too.

  • Northeast Indiana is projected to enjoy a higher population growth than most of regions in the state.
  • Income equality in the region is more balanced here with a per capita income of $42,000.
  • The region’s poverty rate is below the state average.
  • Allen County’s population, in particular, is much younger than the state average.
  • Allen County has more businesses per 1,000 people than most other Indiana regions.

Read more articles by Ron Oetting.

A Fort Wayne native and New Haven resident since 1991, Ron Oetting (aka RKO) is the former owner/publisher of the Allen County Times, a weekly "good-news" paper covering seven communities in East Allen County. Now in his retirement, RKO continues to tell stories about the place he lives and loves. If you have a story to share about East Allen County, contact him at rkoassociates@yahoo.com.
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