The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

May 13, 2014

Trail is heading east

ENID, Okla. — During a special meeting on the budget Tuesday, commissioners voted to redirect trail construction funds from the north side of Enid to the east.

Ward 3 Commissioner Ben Ezzell has vigorously pressed for sidewalk infrastructure along Broadway as a way to extend the trail system and provide a clearer path for east-side pedestrians to the downtown area.

The city already has plans to improve Broadway from downtown to 16th starting sometime this summer, and Ezzell suggested sidewalks along the route be rehabilitated during the construction process. The city is considering allocating funds for its own concrete paving machine.

The switch in funds came after city staff presented plans to build a concrete trail around Crosslin Park and design a link to connect at Cleveland to the rest of the system.

“That’s absolutely at the bottom of my wish list for trails,” Ezzell said.

He said the Broadway resurfacing project also will improve corners at each intersection, making them compliant with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements. Renovating the sidewalk infrastructure along that route would bring the trails that much closer to the campus of Northern Oklahoma College, he said. Walking, he argued, is the primary means of travel for many residents on that side of town.

“There are lots of people who would greatly benefit by having anywhere to walk on the east side of town heading west,” he said.

With only $350,000 for the project, which includes $160,000 in matching funds from Oklahoma Department of Tourism, the sidewalks might not reach 16th — but Ezzell thinks it’s a start.

“We can stripe Broadway for shared-use car/bicycle lanes for very little money. That, combined with consistent and usable sidewalks, will make a great trail extension,” he said. “It isn’t the same as the uniform, uninterrupted 10-foot-wide trail we have elsewhere, but that is OK. We have nearly ran out of easy space for trail anyway.”

The most difficult trail extension faced by the city now is the downtown spur, which would bring it from Frantz north toward the city’s Renaissance Project. One year after the commissioners made it a priority in their $2 million overall trails allocation, the city hasn’t yet acquired any land or rights of way to bring the trail downtown. This has frustrated commissioners, but City Manager Eric Benson told them landowners there are asking too much.

“We’re working it, but I can’t force them to sell the property,” Benson said.

Ezzell said he hopes to have a downtown trail link started by this time next year.

“If we can continue along these lines, we may have trail all the way from Garland to 30th in only another year or two,” he said. “Not bad.”

Ezzell succeeded in getting a majority of commissioners on his side, but his proposal was not without opposition. Ward 6 Commissioner David Vanhooser said he likes the idea of building a trail around Crosslin Park because the city already owns the land and two new residential projects are being built nearby.

Mayor Bill Shewey, Ward 4 Commissioner Rodney Timm and Vanhooser voted against the Broadway sidewalk plan, which passed 4-3.

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