Walking trail would be a good investment

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Three point eight million dollars is a lot of money, even if you do say it fast, as councilman Phil Lyons is fond of saying, and even if most of it comes from sources other than city property taxes.

That's the project price tag, in 2005 dollars, of an extensive recreational trail, planned to stretch 13 miles around McCook and take a couple of decades to complete.

The City Council recently approved a master plan for the project, and joined Southwest Public Health Department and the Middle Republican Natural Resources District in pledging a total of $30,000 for the three entities toward the first two years of the project. Red Willow County commissioners turned down funding for the project (thus eliminating at least some double-taxing for McCook residents -- but that's another question entirely).

The first section of the trail, covering 3,302 feet of the old McCook Rotary walking trail, will cost around $196,000, with the remainder coming from a grant from the Nebraska Department of Roads.

As opponents have argued, now does not seem like the time to take on new, expensive problems. McCook residents are footing the bill for millions of dollars of water and sewer improvements, and state and federal budget cuts are likely to create hardships for more and more of us in the coming years.

But how expensive is the proposed trail? And how much benefit will it create?

Consider for a moment the scale of the city budget, and the amount of money it takes to keep our city running. The most recent McCook city budget totaled about $23 million for this year alone. The local match is only a tiny fraction of that amount.


s it worth it? Well, consider the document benefits of exercise:

* Reduced risk of premature death.

* Reduced risk of heart disease.

* Reduced high blood pressure.

* Reduced risk of colon cancer and breast cancer.

* Reduced risk of developing diabetes.

* Reduced risk of obesity.

* Improvement in muscles, bones and joints.

* Reduced depression an anxiety.

* Improved psychological well-being.

* Enhanced work recreation and sport performance.

And, that list doesn't even take into effect the savings from buying less gasoline.

Yes, there is nothing keeping McCook residents from exercise now, with our paved streets and alleys, modern health clubs and well-kept parks. But a wide, paved, handicap-accessible recreational trail will make it that much easier to get off the couch and out into the fresh air.

Young families or active retirees will see such a trail as one more factor tipping the scales in McCook's direction when it comes to make that decision on where to move next. The walking trail is a good investment in our future.

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