In April 2021, the City of Oxford hired Bayer Becker and KZF to help us plan the NW segment of the Oxford Area Trail. The NW segment will connect the Oxford Community Park over to the Black Covered Bridge. The end result of the planning process would be a proposed route and cost estimate completed at the 30% design level. The plan would not include engineering design or funding for construction. The plan would have provided enough information to seek funding from grants to then allow for future construction.
This area was last planned in 2007 by the KZF Design Firm as part of a grassroots planning process led by the citizen group Oxford Area Trails. Since 2007, much has changed in Oxford and the trail planning and implementation are now being led by City staff members. The City knew we needed an updated cost analysis and conceptual route to pursue grant funding to complete this portion of the trail in the future.
As a part of this trail planning process, the route would need to either work with private property owners to acquire land for the trail or to stay within the City right of way. We had Bayer Becker/KZF develop several possible routes. Some show the trail in the township on private land and some show improved sidewalks within the City's right of way. Our goal has been to try to find cooperative landowners and partners for the construction of the trail and we hoped to continue this partnership development.
During the proposed route creation, Bayer Becker and KZF sent letters in July to property owners whose land may have been directly impacted. We held a special meeting with property owners to solicit their feedback. Then, in August, we hosted a public meeting showcasing the maps and opened a survey for public comment for all residents. Many citizens had questions and concerns and City staff met with many individuals reviewing maps, routes, and plans.
The public comment period surfaced a great amount of unrest and concern about the proposed routes for the trail. When this public discontent maintained strong through the late summer and fall, we decided to pause the planning process for two years and turn our attention to finishing the trail on the south side of town.
During this pause in the NW segment planning, phases 3 & 4 will be constructed in 2022. We have also recently been awarded a grant for phase 5, which will connect the Talawanda High School and Middle School. Engineering for phase 5 will occur in 2023-2024 and construction of phase 5 will begin in 2024-2025.
This pause in the NW segment planning will give staff time to work with City Council to identify priorities for connections on the NW side of town and to seek out possible partners for trail locations. Once partners have been established, we can explore planning viable future sections.
This fall was an intense period of public input and we thank you for your patience. The trail is a long-term goal for the City of Oxford and taking a pause will allow the City to regroup and respond to citzen concerns with intention and clarity about the trail goals for the future.