1973 is where the Oxford trail story begins. It was during this year that a Council appointed Bicycle Coordinating Committee made a recommendation for a new path from the Black Covered Bridge to Hueston Woods State Park. It was 15 years later that the Oxford Chamber of Commerce suggested green belts and a biking/walking path encircling Oxford. Still, it wasn't until 1999-2000 that the first sections of multi-use trail were constructed alongside the Community Park.
Between 2004 and 2007, great strides were made including plans for where trails would be built, but with the Great Recession in 2008, many of these plans were put on hold. Finally, in 2013, the idea for a bike trail was proposed and the first funding specifically for Oxford trails was secured through a Clean Ohio grant.
Since then, the project has been split into several phases. Phase 1, which includes the Black Covered Bridge connector spanning from Kelly Dr. to Bonham Rd., was started in 2013 and finished in 2017. In 2018, a 10-year levy was voted on and passed by Oxford citizens to keep the ball rolling. This levy provides matching funds for future grants and a fund for trail maintenance. Phase 2 was completed and opened in the fall of 2020 and stretches from SR 73 to US 73.
An image showing the current state of the Oxford Area Trail System (OATS):
Currently, in 2021, we are conducting the design and engineering processes for Phases 3 and 4. The hope is to construct these segments in 2022. Phase 3 is planned to connect Peffer Park to the back of the high school and pave the current crushed stone segment from SR 73 to Bonham Rd. This portion will also include entry into the the Miami Outdoor Pursuits Center's challenge course. The construction cost for this section is $1,558,575. $1,168,931 of this will be covered by an air quality grant from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI). The remaining construction fees as well as the cost of leveling land and implementing better drainage structures will be paid for by the trail levy.
Phase 4 will connect Talawanda Middle School (TMS) to the Oxford Community Park. The construction costs are estimated to be around $2,731,539. A grant provided by OKI for transportation alternatives will cover $750,000 of this cost. More grants are currently being researched and applied for to cover more of this cost. If these grants are approved, this would allow for more of the levy money to be applied to maintenance and upkeep.
Looking to the future, the City of Oxford also hopes to implement a 5th Phase from Peffer Park to TMS, with a connection to Chestnut Fields and the potential future Amtrak location behind SDS Pizza. For funding, the city is currently looking into another OKI grant which, if awarded, would allow for construction of this route in 2024-2025. There is also a goal that, eventually, the gap from the Oxford Community Park to the Black Covered Bridge will be closed, but this is still in the earliest phases of feasibility studies.
An image showing both current and planned portions of the Oxford Area Trail System (OATS):
Beyond this, Oxford is setting its sights on greater connectivity not only within the city, but more broadly within Butler County. There are hopes that there could be an addition of spokes that stretch from key parts of the 12-mile loop to Uptown, allowing for easy access to local businesses and gathering spots. While these are simply ideas up to this point, it is certainly something to look out for in the future.
Now the question becomes: Why trails? The answer is simple. By investing in our city and creating a new way for citizens to be active and move around town, we improve quality of life and create an opportunity to slow climate change by providing alternatives to motor vehicle usage. The addition of the multi-use trails also has the ability to bring in more visitors and attract new businesses, which ultimately will help the local economy.
Paving a 10-foot wide path that encircles Oxford makes exploring our natural areas more safe and accessible for people from all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. By connecting neighborhoods to schools and commercial areas, the hope is to allow for more ease of travel, which could even shorten the pick-up lines after school! With citizens in mind, the city continues to move forward with an ambitious goal of completing this loop by 2028. Keep an eye out for future updates and openings of new stretches of path!