Over 30 years ago, an active group of residents came together and planned a network of trails to provide transportation and recreational opportunities to the residents of Oxford. In 2007, a second generation of Oxford residents took this vision one step further by organizing and raising funds for a plan that was added to the 2008 City Comprehensive Plan.
Several decades in the making, this dream was realized in 2017 when Phase 1 of the Oxford Area Trails (OATs) was completed. Since then, two phases have been completed linking the historic Black Covered Bridge to some of Miami University's athletic facilities, winding all the way from Bonham Road near Leonard Howell Park to Peffer Park on Oxford Millville Rd.
Assistant City Manager and long-time contributer to the OATS Project, Jessica Greene, said that the goals of the project are to improve the quality of life for Oxford residents, respond to climate change, and to promote tourism.
"The trails improve quality of life and if we're serious about our climate goals of building, this is important infrastructure. More so, people might chose to live here because there's really cool amenities, this is one such amenity we can offer. Finally, it offers is tourism; when the full trail is built you’ll be able to bring in races and people who come into Oxford for day to ride the loop."
The trails have been funded through a combination of grants from OKI and Clean Ohio, donations and a levy that was passed in 2018. The levy will provide 10 millions dollars over 10 years towards the project, which will fund the completion of the trails to the Community Park. The extension of the trails from the Community Park to the Black Covered Bridge may require additional funding.
Greene said that "the levies purpose is primarily to help us apply for grants and to provide the matching dollars and that has been a very successful approach to date.”
The plan is to connect from Peffer Park to Talawanda High School (orange), the high school to Talawanda Middle School (yellow), the middle school to the Oxford Community Park (blue), and to pave the crushed stone East West Connector (orange) by 2023, with the hope to connect from the Community Park back to the Black Covered Bridge by 2030.
Greene said that the trails have already received positive feedback from Oxford residents.
“It’s been awesome and the community is just so excited about it… people use it and they write emails and they say thank you… its been one of the biggest joys of my career to be able to work on this project.”
Phase 2 of the project, connecting from the DeWitt Log House to Peffer Park will be complete by the end of September 2020.