A recreational trail encircling Oxford has been a dream of many in the community for a long time and with a part of it now about to be built, City Council heard a report of feasibility and cost estimates at its Dec. 6 meeting for more sections of it.
The presentation was made by Miami University graduate Michelle Johnson, who now works for Environmental Design Group, the firm hired to update information about the Oxford Area Trail System.
The trail is being done in segments, primarily through grants, and Johnson presented Council with a look at what it would take to complete the loop around Oxford.
“Ninety-three percent of people with bikes do not like to use them on the road. We want to be sure the trail is designed for them so they do not ride on a road,” Johnson said, adding another factor to trail design. “People like to have a destination.”
She said a trail will generate $13.54 per user per day when there are amenities such as coffee shops or stores nearby.
Johnson said they are recommending the proposed trail around Oxford include short side trip routes to nearby landmarks or locations.
Trails have health benefits, too, she explained, including mental health ones.
“Thirty-two percent of adults are obese. Only 15 percent of adults engage in sufficient moderate physical activity,” she said. “For the first time in history, youth have a lower life expectancy than adults.”
She said, “The city is moving forward” on planning for the trail with plans to make it ADA compliant. The portion that is the subject of this study is 7.2 miles, which she called, “split into short, fundable segments.”
Later in the Council agenda, unanimous approval was given to a resolution authorizing up to $2,000 for Bayer and Becker Engineers to complete consulting services on Phase 1 of the recreational trail. That was an amendment to the original contract approved last May with the increase due to partially re-routing the path through Leonard Howell Park.
That work used up part of the contingency amount and the additional money was needed.
“City staff has been pleased with Bayer and Becker’s willingness to continue assisting to complete the design on a project that has been delayed for more than one year,” city planner Sam Perry wrote in a staff summary of the resolution. “The City plans to bid the project in December 2016 and open bids in January 2017 for a June 2017 completion deadline.”
Johnson’s presentation involved planning for extension of that trail to the east and south.
The additional 7.2 miles would take the path under State Route 73 and U.S. 27 and the railroad tracks to run west at the southern border of the city. One of the problem areas, she noted, is getting trail users safely across Kehr Road. That will be a significant problem to overcome, but will require clear markings and some kind of signalization.
“Kehr Road scared us,” she said of observations while looking at the road. “We saw walkers, including mothers with strollers.”
In their study, she said, the question of the railroad crossing was a major consideration and whether to go over it or under it with either a bridge or a tunnel. She said the best option was to go under it because of the height and slope that would be required to be ADA compliant.
“The biggest problem is not the cost. It’s working with the railroad,” she said. “It’s a glorified culvert under the railroad but the issues are significant in dealing with the railroad.”
She presented the work in segments, saying some of them are “low-hanging fruit” which could be done locally but others have high price tags and could be done over time with a series of grants such as what was done to get Phase 1 to the bidding and construction phase.
Land acquisition would be a major problem because much of the route in question is already city or Miami University property.
Mayor Kate Rousmaniere thanked Johnson for her presentation and said she wanted the community to see it.
“The money is intimidating but we have some money already,” the mayor said. “We have a grant with the Oxford Community Foundation from the original OATS group.”
Jessica Greene, director of the Oxford Visitors Bureau, has been a point person on much of the work done on the trail project and was in the audience for the Council presentation. Asked what she thought of the work, she said simply, “It’s squeal-worthy.”