A little over two weeks ago, a group of Tahlequah officials and concerned citizens took a stroll through what has been loosely termed "the Greenbelt." The idea, said Mayor Sue Catron, was to "walk and dream." The first tendrils of the dream starting coming into focus a few years ago, but now, local residents may be able to watch as the dream becomes reality.
The Tahlequah History Trail originally started as a conceptual drawing of paths near Town Branch Creek in 1992 and expanded to a two-mile trail system that was to connect all city parks to form the “Greenbelt.” The 10-foot-wide portion of the trail is expected to use many features already available in the existing park system by connecting Sequoyah Park to Ross.
Now, Catron and others say the overarching plan may come to fruition "sooner rather than later," and that's a bandwagon every resident of this community should have no problem climbing aboard.
Street Commissioner Wayne Ryals said he's just waiting for funds to be released to Planning and Development Director Clinton Johnson. Community Development Block Grant money will be used to buy gravel and asphalt, and street crews will do the excavation. They're ready to begin, Ryals said. Two years ago, $85,456 had already been tentatively set aside by the City Council, and former Mayor Jason Nichols estimated that $800,000 had been spent on the project at that point.
Catron has expressed enthusiasm for the project. Before the public "dream walk," she, Johnson and Ryals had already walked the area to envision what the finished project might look like. She also issued a challenge to local residents, encouraging them to conjure up their own ideas for the trail, like the addition of picnic tables and benches.
Completion of the Greenbelt is something for which many citizens have hoped for a long time. It will enhance our park system and offer a perfect venue for families. It could spur a new appreciation for fitness, too, as it invites an enthusiasm for walking. Perhaps eventually, it can also be part of an added enticement for biking trails – another local feature cycling enthusiasts have pursued. While a bike route along the four-lane is untenable, there are other places more conducive, and with input from the proper people, they won't be that hard to find.
City officials – current ones and some of those from as long ago as the early '90s – deserve a pat on the back for their foresight and perseverance with this all-important project. Not only will it benefit folks who already live here, it could encourage other people to move to our community. And growth – provided it's the right kind – should be what we all want.