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The MAPS 3 trails addition doesn't quite add up


Carol Cole-Frowe September 2nd, 2010

Still, the trails advisory committee chair is brimming with enthusiasm.

Trails-Hal-McKnight-05mh_7-06x4-73cm_1
Many Oklahoma City residents who voted for the $777 million in MAPS 3 projects apparently thought the newest MAPS would complete the 1997 Oklahoma City Trails Master Plan.

Not quite.

MAPS 3 designates $40 million for 57 miles of trails and will bring the city's trail total up to about 140 miles, connecting most of the existing trails around the city, the Oklahoma River, Lake Overholser, Lake Draper and Lake Hefner.

But Oklahoma City's trails master plan proposes 208 miles of walking, jogging, bicycling and in-line skating trails throughout the city, leaving a discrepancy of more than 60 miles.

The confusion apparently arose from phrases used in the summary of MAPS 3 projects on the city's website that included "all but completing" the city's trails master plan, and warned that, "the city has a trails master plan that will not be complete for decades, unless this initiative passes."

The campaign literature consistently promoted that MAPS 3 would build 57 miles of trails.

During the campaign, Mayor Mick Cornett was quoted in various forums and interviews saying that the city's trail system would be fundamentally or virtually complete.

"I was always trying to put a qualifier in there," Cornett said. "There was certainly no intentional misleading."

Cornett said it was just more than a year ago when he asked city staff how much it would cost if they wanted to finish the trails master plan.

"It was a priority of mine to finish the trails master plan," he said. "It took staff by surprise. (The trails master plan) was never updated."

What came back to Cornett was that 57 miles would "substantially complete" the plan, he said.

Kristy Yager, city spokeswoman, said some of the trails proposed in the original 13-year-old master plan are just not viable.

"Some wouldn't be used," she said. "There's just a number of trails in the plan that just didn't make sense."

There are five trail projects in MAPS 3 that will connect the Oklahoma River trail to Lake Overholser, connect Lake Hefner to the river trails, construct a loop around Lake Draper, finish the loop around Lake Overholser and connect the airport trail to Earlywine trails. The trails would also connect other previously constructed trails.

Cornett said he hopes they will be able to find federal funding for some of the remaining 60-plus miles of trails in the master plan.

Jennifer Lindsey-McClintock, public information officer for Oklahoma City's parks and recreation department, said anytime you put together a master plan, it will change as the city changes.

The subject has been a hot topic on area message boards, which challenged the mayor to be "accountable," and questioned the language in the MAPS 3 campaign literature.

On the flip side, bicycling, jogging and in-line skating enthusiasts are generally happy.

"I think that this is certainly going to move us forward," said Hal McKnight, chairman of the Oklahoma City Trails Advisory Committee, who said he is a "huge" proponent of MAPS 3. "This next set of trails is going to make a huge impact. "¦ I think we need trails within every part of the city."

McKnight said the city needs to have a trail system that will benefit children and adults, as well as making it possible to commute to work and run short errands on a bicycle.

"I think we're talking both quality and quantity through this (almost) 60 miles of trails," he said. "I think it's really important from the health and wellness standpoint to build as many trails as possible. "¦ The more trails, the healthier we will be."

He also said the master plan needs updating.

"I can see where there is confusion," McKnight said.

Several miles of trails from previous bond issues are funded and coming on line.

McKnight calls the newly opened Katy trail along the abandoned Katy railroad right-of-way "gorgeous" and lined with huge trees. It runs from the Remington Park area near the Oklahoma City Zoo south to the Oklahoma River.

The Deep Fork Greenway will run from close to Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School and connect the North Grand trail to the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, and the Central Greenway near the Fort Smith junction, which will connect the Katy trail to the Oklahoma River.

"We also have a bicycle transportation plan that was part of the 2007 bond," McKnight said.

He also said 120 "Share the Road" miles are funded, which would create bike lanes on existing roads. Another 330 miles are planned.

"I think it's really important to the community," he said.

When Oklahoma Gazette/News 9 sponsored a poll conducted by SoonerPoll.com last September on various MAPS 3 projects, outdoor projects like trails and parks received more than 53 percent support. "Carol Cole-Frowe

Read the 1997 Oklahoma City Trails Master Plan.

photo Hal McKnight, chairman of the Oklahoma City Trails Advisory Committee, walks the North Grand trail with his black lab, Will. Photo/Mark Hancock
 
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