The Wichitan

Happy trails

The Wichitan

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Wichita Falls recently finished a bike trail running from Lucy Park to Jaci Park, a 14.9-mile route. The project has cost taxpayers about $9 million.

One segment of the newly finished bike trail in Wichita Falls. (Photo by Loren Eggenschwiler)

By Caden Burros

Whether it’s for fitness or a daily commute, trailblazing students are saddling up and taking their bikes out to the recently completed Wichita Falls Hike & Bike Trail system.

The trail began in 1987 as a way to create a path around Lucy park, followed by a series of extensions along the Wichita River through Williams park and over the Scott Street area.

Over the last 25 years, as the trail grew on the northeast side of town, additional construction was completed in the Hamilton Park and Holliday Creek areas.

It wasn’t until this September that the two existing lengths of track were joined and final concrete for the trail was laid.

But it’s not just MSU students who are taking advantage of the trail – from its earliest stages, agencies and clubs donated money and planned for the future.

Groups such as Streams and Valleys, the Wichita Falls Bicycle Club, the Wichita Falls Runners Group and many others have played a role in helping the trail become what it is today.

Even with support from the community, however, this project couldn’t have been completed with donations alone.

According to Jack Murphy, parks and recreation department director, the project has cost about $9 million so far. Only 16 percent of that was paid for by the city. About 84 percent was awarded through state and federal funding.

The Community Development Block Grant, which helps to carry out community development activities, is one type of grant the city has been able to use for the project.

With this type of funding, the city was able to develop a trail completely separate from the motorway. Instead of using city streets, the trail follows the park system and natural waterways behind neighborhoods and around the eastern side of town.

Now only the pavement has been laid.

In the future, Murphy said, the trail will have more amenities.

“A trail has to be attractive, a lid out so that it’s curvy, to appeal to the eye. (It needs) benches, shelters, rest stops, water, restrooms,” he said.

Plans for future additions to the trail will bring it around full circle to the west side of Wichita Falls.

The ability to circumnavigate the city on bicycle without having to deal with vehicles is a huge bonus for most cyclists. At ten feet wide, the trail strictly prohibits motorized vehicles of any kind, except emergency and utility. It is intended only for recreational use.

The absence of cars is one of the main reason students seem to enjoy the trail. It’s why  more students are using it every day. Some students use it to jog around a scenic creek. Others walk with their friends. The trail gives them a chance to get out and stretch their legs without having to look over their shoulders for approaching traffic.

The trail offers a quick and safe route to campus from many neighborhoods around town

Students who have been looking to save a little money in gasoline and cut back on emissions have been using the trail as a way to commute.

The closest entry point is only a few blocks from school.

Tyler Helms, an MSU senior who rides as much as 60 miles a week, said he would probably not ride his bicycle as often if it weren’t for the trail.

“It’s not safe to ride on the streets around here,” Helms said.

Though it’s not his only reason to ride, it definitely encourages him to know he doesn’t have to be on the lookout for cars.

Helms, who uses his bicycle for commuting as well as for exercise, think more people will go outside and ride if they know about the trail.

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Happy trails