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Stop gap

An obvious hole in the city trail network exists along Nichols Hills boundaries, but officials and donors are seeking to fill it.

Greg Horton April 27th, 2011

A plan to extend the Oklahoma City multiuse trails through Nichols Hills appears to be moving forward.

MAPS 3 funded them, but the plan only provided for construction in Oklahoma City, so they dead-end on the west and south sides of Nichols Hills.

On April 16, Planet Nichols Hills, a local chapter of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, sponsored a panel about the feasibility of extending the trails. The trail from Lake Hefner currently ends on the west border of Nichols Hills. The plan is to connect the Hefner trail to the south edge of Nichols Hills where the OKC trails end at Northwest 63rd and Grand Boulevard.

David Poole, the city manager for Nichols Hills, said the city filed for a grant through the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.

“We’ve been looking at completing the trails since MAPS 3 passed,” Poole said. “It’s too early to start talking about actual dates, but we’re hoping the grant award will be in September.”

Randy Smith, public works director for Nichols Hills, said the grant would cover $200,000 of the cost.

“Right now, we only have a rough estimate of the projected cost,” Smith said. “It’s going to cost about $485,000 to extend the trails. Part of the money will come from a bond that has already been approved to resurface Grand Boulevard.”

Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources Inc., pledged $400,000 to the project.

“We were going to provide the materials and crew to do the work,” Hamm said, “but the city does not allow non-city crews to work on city property. They decided to pursue alternate funding.”

Hal McKnight, chairman of the Oklahoma City Trails Advisory Committee, was a member of the April 16 panel, along with former City Councilman Sam Bowman and Bob Berry, president of D.C. Bass & Sons Construction Co., of Enid.

As the former owner of local bike shop Wheeler Dealer Bicycles for more than 35 years, McKnight is a proponent of multiuse trails.

“As multiuse trails become part of the consistent tapestry of a city, as they are made accessible to the public, overall health increases,” he said. “As Oklahoma City talks about bringing new businesses into the metro, it’s important to know that overall public health strongly determines where businesses locate. That is measured in part by multiuse trails, parks, walkability, commuting options, etc. Increased traffic on public trails also means increased public safety, due to the number of people out and about. Studies indicate they also lead to an increase in property values.”

McKnight said the majority of Nichols Hills residents he spoke with recognize the importance of connecting the trails, but money is a factor. “There is no funding right now,” he said. “However, most people realize it’s a good thing when the benefits are explained to them.”

Until the funding is in place, McKnight said Planet Nichols Hills will focus on increasing public awareness of how the trails can help improve the overall health of a metro area that McKnight said “does not do well on public health scores.”

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