Officials: Tahlequah on track to soon expand Greenbelt Trail

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
08/19/2019 04:00 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
City officials take a break during their July 18 walk of the greenbelt trail in Tahlequah. From left are Mayor Sue Catron, Planning and Development Director Clinton Johnson and Street Commissioner Wayne Ryals. KERI THORNTON/TAHLEQUAH DAILY PRESS VIA AP
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – Expansion of the city’s Greenbelt Trail is on the horizon, and city officials say the work should begin sooner rather than later.

The Tahlequah History Trail originally started as a conceptual drawing of paths near Town Branch Creek in 1992 and expanded to a two-mile trail system connecting all city parks to form the “Greenbelt.” The 10-foot-wide portion of the trail will use many features already available in the existing park system by connecting Sequoyah Park to Ross Park, and then to Felts Park, the Tahlequah Daily Press reported.

Tahlequah Mayor Sue Catron, other city officials and curious residents recently took a “walk and dream” tour of the trail and exchanged thoughts and ideas while they painted a picture of plans. Tahlequah Planning and Development Director Clinton Johnson said the trail will include two emergency phone stations and the same lighting as on Bluff Avenue.

The Street Department will be involved in the construction process by preparing the ground to support the asphalt trail and laying the surface of the trail.

Tahlequah Street Commissioner Wayne Ryals said the next step is having the funds released to Johnson so his department can be given the go-ahead.

“As soon as those are released, we can start,” said Ryals. “Most of the grant will be spent on gravel and asphalt, and we will match it with excavation. We are ready.”

The budget is based off of a Community Development Block Grant that will help fund construction.
In 2017, $85,456 was tentatively approved by the City Council, and former Mayor Jason Nichols estimated that $800,000 had been put into the project.

“The grant is going to pay for the materials and the street department is going to be who installs the trail,” said Johnson.

Catron said the project will keep the city moving ahead and vibrant. She, along with Johnson and Ryals, walked the trail a week before, and they thought others would like a similar opportunity.

“We spent an hour or so walking along a little bit of the trail, and we were dreaming and envisioning what was going to be here,” said Catron. “It really helped to be on site and to see the lay of the land.”

She challenged the group to picture the potentials the trail had to offer and to throw out ideas while they walked. In certain areas – especially with shade along the creek – the addition of picnic tables and benches was discussed.

Concerns were expressed on whether being close to the road will be a safety issue. Johnson said there was enough space, and there was a benefit while building the trail.

“It’s going to be 10 feet wide; you’re not going to have to be hugged up against the road. If we backed up the trail to the street curb, it’s going to be cheaper and easier for our construction,” said Johnson.

The mayor said there has been a back-and-fourth discussion on whether the trail should go under street bridges or whether crosswalks to major roads should be created.

“We obviously don’t have a crosswalk across Downing – and initially, at least, it will be a crosswalk just to get people safely through the trails,” said Catron.

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