The City of Fort Calhoun is trying again to provide more recreational trail space for cyclists, walkers and joggers.
At its Aug. 19 meeting, the Fort Calhoun City Council approved an application for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant to construct two portions of a planned trail from West Market Square Park to Fort Atkinson.
"Last year we had a plan in place to connect from West Market, up to the new proposed park on Adams and 12th (Street), then connect over to Pioneer Park and ultimately ending at Fort Atkinson," City Engineer Lucas Billesbach of JEO Consulting said. "This is the same grant application that we applied for last year."
The RTP grant is intended to support trails that connect recreational areas and facilities. The city applied for the grant in 2018, but was turned down. Grant officials, when city officials met with them, said they viewed the trail as a "sidewalk project." Much of the proposed route of the trail followed strait along Monroe and Adams Streets.
"When they say recreational trail, that is their sole purpose," Billesbach said. "It's not growing economy, it's not providing pathways. It's recreational — jogging, cycling."
At the July council meeting, Billesbach said he was hoping to identify a more "meandering" route through town, which would suggest the trail is for recreation rather than city sidewalks.
Unfortunately, Billesbach said on Aug. 19, there's not a good way to go from West Market Square Park to Fort Atkinson without following city streets. As such, Billesbach said the city should apply for the grant using two areas of the original proposed trail that demarcate recreational space — the area which would skirt around the new park planned for the Adams Street Corridor and through a plot of land between 8th and Monroe Streets that would connect existing city trails with Fort Atkinson.
"The goal from West Market to Fort Atkinson hasn't changed, but I think we need to look at how we're funding that trail, and the two likely sources they would support," Billesbach said.
A part of the trail that would connect from an existing trail loop in Pioneer Park before heading east toward Fort Atkinson would use land that's part of the city's right-of-way.
"There are some encroachments (sheds, other structures) in that right-of-way that need to be dealt with," Billesbach said. "There is enough space in that right-of-way that I think with the encroachments, with some minor adjustments, we could still get a trail through and have it work very nicely."
The total cost for the two trail areas that are part of the grant application is $241,000, Billesbach said. The RTP grant would be paid 80 percent through the grant providers — about $193,000. The remaining 20 percent could be split with the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resource District (NRD), Billesbach said, which would be about $24,000 each for the city and NRD.
The rest of the trail could be completed with other funding sources, or as the city budgets to complete a couple of blocks at a time. When the whole trail was first discussed in 2018, the total cost was expected to be between $660,000 and $730,000. Subtracting the two sections being applied for in the RTP grant would leave a cost of $419,000 to $489,000 for the rest of the trail.
Council member Lori Lammers said she thought the trail section suggested to head off the Pioneer Park loop is a great place to put a recreational path.
"Ironically, (my husband) and I walked that area before we heard about (this)," she said. "It would be a good connection. It fits with what you want it to be and what (grant officials) want it to be."