City recreation committee discusses urban hiking trails

Friday, October 5, 2012
Alderman Bart Williams (standing) points to a city map to show where the different areas of the city might be connected by sidewalks or bike trails.

The city's recreation committee met on Wednesday morning to discuss future concepts and funding for a citywide series of urban hiking trails. Invigorated by the nationwide walk-to-school morning, Alderman Bart Williams, who serves as chair of the committee, discussed the future of walking trails and the importance of continuing to support healthy community initiatives. Williams turned the meeting over to city attorney John Lannom who came up with the concept for the urban hiking trails.

Lannom said that without the availability of funding some of the more attention-grabbing ideas are not possible. However, creating a series of urban hiking trails would involve nominal costs and would elevate the city of Dyersburg from a livability standpoint.

"There is no money statewide, there is no money locally but this doesn't cost a lot of money," said Lannom.

According to Lannom, the trails would be created out of existing sidewalks. Lannom pointed to the success of the sidewalk path at Okeena Park but that having to drive to the trail is an inconvenience for some. The series of trails would tie new parts and old parts of the city. The measured routes throughout the city would have a central start point at Okeena Park and would be color-coded to indicate the length of the route.

Lannom suggested that this was a project that perhaps local Boy Scout troops could get involved with. Williams further added that he could envision Sunday school groups and service organizations such as Kiwanis and the Rotary Club taking ownership over certain routes in exchange for placing their name on a stone or some type of plaque.

"This is a project that with a little paint, minimal money and Boy Scouts, you could get this thing up and running and you can get huge buy-in from the community," said Lannom.

Alderman Bob Kirk asked about the condition of sidewalks or the lack of sidewalks in the areas where Lannom was suggesting creating the hiking trails. Lannom acknowledged that it was a concern brought up by Jim Stark, a member of the steering committee for Pioneering Healthy Communities. Designating trails on sidewalks that may need repairing may open the city up to a liability issue but Lannom commented that the condition of the sidewalks needs to be addressed anyway.

"The liability is there," said Lannom. "Do we need to catalog and repair the areas of obvious disrepair? Absolutely. Should we be doing that now? Probably so."

Lannom further elaborated that the biggest concern for a lack of sidewalk exists in the area of Parkview along the Dyersburg State Community College campus. An east-west corridor is needed to tie the loop in the city together. According to Lannom, Williams and YMCA CEO Randy Butler met with DSCC President Dr. Karen Bowyer about the possibility of adding a sidewalk on the north side of Parkview. Bowyer was open to the possibility but asked that a letter be written so that she could seek approval from the Board of Regents.

"If you establish the concept of Dyersburg urban walking trails to increase the livability standards within the community, you can reasonably raise money to do it," said Lannom.

Williams stressed that the committee was not at the point of seeking funds from the city to pursue the project. However, he did want to get an endorsement from the committee to pursue conceptual designs of an urban hiking trail in the community as well as writing a letter to Bowyer to seek permission to place a sidewalk on the north side of Parkview. Williams said he would also like to seek a meeting with the Tennessee Department of Transportation in order to discuss challenges behind the project and determine what funding does exist at the state level.

Stark commented that he believed funding existed at the state level for projects that featured connectivity and collaboration.

"Dyersburg is ripe for creating trails for connectivity," said Stark.

A motion was initiated by Dyersburg Mayor John Holden to pursue conceptual designs, write a letter to Bowyer and seek further funding for this project and seconded by Alderman Terry Glover. The motion was unanimously approved.

In other business:

* Scott Ball reported that he expects construction to begin on the Safe Routes to School project in the late spring.

* Holden commented that the city is currently working on four other grants (Community Safe Rooms, water-tower grant, Downtown Revitalization project and entrance signs for the community) and that progress is happening, although slowly.

* City Recreation Director Andy Baker reported that the Dyersburg Activity Center hosted 24 teams over the weekend for a tournament and expected that the local hotels and restaurants were full.

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