(Stillwater, OK) — The Stillwater City Council has authorized city staff to apply for a $1.2 million Transportation Alternatives Grant from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation that would cover most of the cost to convert unused railroad track running through the center of town into a multi-use trail. Converting a portion of the Stillwater Central Line railway would help complete a trail system that connects Stillwater north to south.
The project would require a 20% financial match from the City of Stillwater. The $240,000 in matching funds required for this project is available in an account set aside for that purpose. In addition to authorizing the grant application and use of matching funds, a resolution approved by City Council on Monday, Nov. 14 pledges to appropriate enough funding each year for operation and maintenance costs throughout the life of the trail.
It has long been a goal to connect the various fragments of Stillwater’s Kameoka Trail, Chief Performance Innovation Officer Brady Moore said. The project currently being proposed would extend 1.25 miles from McElroy Road to Boomer Lake Park. The goal is to eventually extend the same distance to the south, forming a continuous trail between Boomer Lake Park on the north side of Stillwater and Couch Park on 12th Avenue.
The entire track would not be removed. A switching station and section of track to the north of Boomer Lake Park would be retained to allow industrial facilities in that area the option of using rail cars, he explained.
The trail project is about more than getting from Point A to Point B, although it would certainly help people who walk out of necessity, Moore said. Pedestrian and bicycle safety is always a concern and the rail-to-trail conversion would provide a safe and efficient passage for people walking or biking across town that meets accessibility standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would be something that serves all residents.
In addition to improving the mobility of people who don’t drive or choose not to drive, the trail would provide recreational opportunities and an area of peace and natural beauty for residents to enjoy while promoting inclusion and connecting neighborhoods, parks and business districts. It would help promote healthy lifestyles, improve quality of life and maintain a historic transportation route.
Deputy City Manager Melissa Reames said the prospect of achieving a long term goal for the Kameoka Trail is exciting.
“It’s great when you think about finally being able to make some movement forward to complete what was envisioned,” Reames said. “And, getting the state to partner on it is just the cherry on top.”
The grants are competitive but city staff are hopeful. If Stillwater isn’t awarded the grant in this round, it will try again, Moore said.
Rail-to-Trail conversions are an increasingly popular way for communities to repurpose unused rail corridors as public trails for alternative transportation.
The movement started in the mid-1960s as localized efforts – primarily in the Midwest – with the support of walking and biking enthusiasts, railroad history buffs, conservation and parks groups and active-transportation activists, according to the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an advocacy organization.
Now converted rail corridors are creating trail networks and forming links between communities that the conservancy says are transforming neighborhoods and entire regions. Plans are in motion to develop a 3,700 mile trail that incorporates Rail-to-Trail conversions as the backbone of a continuous pathway crossing the U.S. from Washington D.C. to Washington State.
The map shows a proposed 1.25 mile rail-to-trail conversion that would create an accessible, multi-use path running north and south through Stillwater from McElroy Road to Boomer Lake Park.
A pathway created on a section of the Stillwater Central Line railway that the City of Stillwater has proposed converting to a multi-use trail would allow people to safely travel north and south through the center of town while experiencing a different view of the community. ?
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