Recreational trail poised for big growth

Friday, April 15, 2005

McCook's recreational trails -- in development since the early 1990s -- are poised to take major steps forward during the next six months. The starting point came Tuesday evening when the board of directors of the Middle Republican Natural Resources District authorized $6,000 per year for the next two years to help with Phase I of the project.

Then, Monday, the McCook City Council and the Red Willow County Commissioners will be asked to appropriate similar amounts. If they do so, McCook will be in position to apply for a grant of $142,296 from the Nebraska Department of Roads.

Those funds would be combined with the city, county and NRD funds, as well as an earlier $18,000 grant from the Southwest Public Health Department.

All together, that adds up to $196,000. The money is needed to build a 3,332 foot paved trail, starting on East H Street and following the Kelley Creek bottom as it winds along the golf course, then on up to Kelley Park on the west side of East Fifth Street.

The proposed concrete trail will be six inches thick and eight feet wide. Ramps are planned at both ends to provide access for handicapped persons. The east McCook location for the paved trail will provide convenient access to Kelley Park, the McCook Municipal Swimming Pool, McCook Community College and Community Hospital.

Trails have been under development in McCook for years. In early days, they were pathways, created by shortcuts by walkers before paving of streets and sidewalks became commonplace. Much later, in the early 1990s, walking for exercise and recreation became popular, and members of the Rotary Club responded by creating walking trails. Dr. John Batty, who retired in 1986, took on trail development as a major endeavor, and he was joined in the trail pursuit by other Rotary members, including Harold Bennett, Floyd Hershberger, Walt Sehnert and many others. Out of his own pocket, Dr. Batty donated money for tree planting and flower boxes along the trail, and he also matched Rotary contributions to buy a mower and other trail improvements.

Realizing the need for additional trail development in 2005 and beyond, a three-member sub-committee was appointed to look into what is needed, and what can be done. That group -- composed of Tor Olson, representing the Rotary Club; Becky Kilpatrick, representing the McCook Park Advisory Board; and Doyle Wineland, representing the City of McCook, have done a great job, putting the community on an action path.

With more than 13 miles in McCook's total trail system, much more needs to be done for trail development. But Phase One is an excellent beginning, and the three-member subcommittee is to be commended for their diligent efforts in bringing the project to this point.

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