We have had plenty of cold weather so far this winter, but as of this writing very little snow or ice. The result has been that work on several trails projects has continued with a couple of major ones being completed.
ROCK ISLAND AT THE CHILDREN’S ZOO
Completed: The stretch of the trail from the Teachers’ Fountain at 27th and Capitol Parkway south to A Street goes through and under the zoo. It has generally been one of the most popular and crowded trails in Lincoln, but it has been closed for several weeks as work was undertaken to overhaul the old fountain. This has been largely completed, and although some landscape work will no doubt continue, the trail itself is open just in time for those long training runs for the Lincoln Marathon.
JAMAICA NORTH AT SALTILLO ROAD
Completed: The repairs on the Jamaica North Trail just north of the crossing at Saltillo Road have now been completed and the trail is open. A deteriorating old bridge has been replaced by a culvert. The trail head provides maps and parking.
CHANGES COMING TO THE ROCK ISLAND TRAIL AT THE BOOSALIS TRAIL CROSSING
On any given weekend you will notice a large group of cars parked at the south end of the parking lot by the old Shopko Store at 27th Street and Highway 2. They aren’t there for the shopping. The buildings are fenced off and the shops have been slated for demolition for some time. But this spot has become a go to place for running friends to meet up because of its connections to the trail system. It abuts the Rock Island Trail (Lincoln’s most popular) and intersects the Boosalis Trail which runs along Highway 2 on the north side. On the south side of the intersection the Tierra Williamsburg Trail intersects with the Rock Island.
The shopping center came first, and the trails were developed later. The Highway 2 Trail was first (later renamed for Mayor Helen Boosalis). Next the Rock Island was developed on the abandoned rail right-of-way. Finally, the Tierra-Williamsburg Trail was paved from Tierra Park south to Yankee Hill Road. But the real popularity of this meeting spot dates from the completion of the bridges over Highway 2 and 27th Street. Before their completion runners and bikers faced the risk of crossing two very busy roadways not to mention the delay in waiting for traffic signals. In one fell swoop the two sections of the Rock Island became one. Probably no one single project changed the use of trails in Lincoln as much as this one.
But for several months signs at the parking lot have stated that re-development was coming. That time seems to have now arrived. A large multi-use development is said to include retail and housing as well as multi-story buildings. Although definite plans have not been submitted to the planning department, demolition of the old center and construction of the new is sure to limit access to the trails from this location. Preliminary drawings in the paper showed several access points from the complex to the trails. When Lincoln’s trail system was started developers were wary of trails, but they quickly discovered that most buyers/renters considered them an amenity. No doubt when the new housing is complete in 2-3 years many runners will realize this is an ideal spot to locate — the place with the best connections to Lincoln’s trail system.
CHANGES COMING TO THE MOPAC EAST OF 66TH STREET
A stretch of the MoPac Trail between 66th and the O Street bridge runs along an old garden center with greenhouses. This will soon give way to new development projects including commercial buildings and rowhouse-style townhomes. While construction may cause some disruption for trail users, the end result will be more housing with excellent access to the MoPac Trail. The site is convenient both for reaching the UNL East Campus and downtown going west and the MoPac trail heading out to Walton and Eagle going east.
THE CORNHUSKER HIGHWAY AND 33RD STREET RAIL CROSSING PROJECT
The city is planning a major project to improve rail safety by building new crossings over the rail lines that parallel the Cornhusker highway. The at-grade crossings are blocked several hours each week by trains. This project is still a long way from construction but plans now are being drawn up. The needs of pedestrians and bikers are being considered in this project, but it is always good to remember that the squeaky wheel gets greased. So if runners see a problem, the planning phase is the time speak up. You can check out the design by going to www.33rdcornhusker.com. This site provides 3D images of the proposed project.
LINCOLN RECEIVES THE GRANT TO EXTEND THE ROCK ISLAND TRAIL INTO WILNDERNESS PARK
The city of Lincoln has received the federal Land and Water Conservation grant described in the fall issue of FastTimes which will allow the extension of the Rock Island right-of-way trail through Wilderness Park. The grant will provide funds for the rehabilitation of the old railway bridge over the Salt Creek. This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Wilderness Park so this is especially good news.
A special thanks to Bobby Bartja of Lincoln Parks and Recreation for his assistance.
See you on the trails!