It’s 6:00 pm on a Thursday evening at the new Peffer Park section of the Oxford Area Trails. The setting sun is streaking through the fluttering leaves onto the freshly paved path. Every direction there are bikers and hikers, couples talking and children laughing. In such trying times, the Oxford Area Trails system has become a focal point and a source of joy for the City. It offers a way to stay safe while getting outside, being active and engaging in the community.
For Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene, the opening of Phase 2 of the trails represents the culmination of years of hard work.
“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… it’s been one of the biggest joys of my career to work on this project.”
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. With the completion of Phase 2, attention has shifted to the ongoing planning of the rest of the project.
The work on Phase 3 and Phase 4 will begin simultaneously as the grant awards funding each path came in at the same time. Though they are on different sides of town, the engineering, the design, and the construction will occur concurrently.
Phase 3 is funded by a $1.5 million grant from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI). The path will go from US Route 27 to Talawanda High School. In the original plan, the existing ash gravel paths along the path were going to be paved over. However, recent flooding has caused damage to the gravel paths. City staff is currently conducting ecological studies on the stability of gravel as a base for the pavement.
Phase 4 is funded by a $750,000 grant from OKI and the Transportation Alternatives Program. It will travel from the Talawanda Middle School on State Route 732 to the Oxford Community Park. Because of the location of the proposed trail, Greene said that it will not have the same scenery and aesthetic of the paths that are already complete.
“In this portion of the trail, you may see it start to look a little bit more urban. It will still be beautiful and lovely, but it'll not be like the wooded paths on the other side of town.”
Staff is currently searching for funding sources for Phase 5, which will extend from Talawanda High School to Talawanda Middle School. Staff is also evaluating timelines and funding opportunities for Phase 6, which will go from Oxford Community Park to US Route 27.
The next step in the trails project is to get a cost estimate for closing the gap between Oxford Community Park to the Black Covered Bridge. Because the original estimate and design were completed in 2007, the environment has changed and the design will need to be revisited.
Greene said that no matter the difficulties, she plans on pushing the project ahead.
“I have every intention of asking for money just about every year for this trail system. To keep inching along, we might have to scale it back; it might shrink back and become a little different, but that's okay. As long as we keep the forward momentum.”
In the meantime, get out on the trails and tag Oxford Area Trails in the posts from your adventures with the hashtag #oxfordareatrails.