- Bob Ratterman Contributing Writer
A recent sunny Sunday afternoon found the Sparks family out on the new portion of the Oxford recreational trail that will eventually encircle the city.
“We did not know about the trail. We did the Loveland Bike Trail yesterday. We live in Oxford and we know people who tried (Oxford’s trail) out and really liked it,” Megan Sparks said.
A formal ribbon cutting ceremony June 14 marked the opening of that first portion of the trail from the Black Covered Bridge to Leonard Howell Park. There it meets up with a portion of a trail already in place connecting Bonham Road with Ohio 73.
The Black Covered Bridge is currently closed due to some structural issues, and signs warn people to stay off of it until the Oxford Museum Association can have the necessary work done to open it.
When that happens, the trail will be accessible from the bridge end as well as Howell Park. Sidewalks were installed on Morning Sun Road to make getting to the bridge safer and easier.
City Planner Sam Perry, who has been heavily involved in the trail project so far, said completion of the first phase has generated momentum which he hopes will grow.
“The momentum seems to be there. Funders are generally interested in projects with momentum,” Perry said. Funding for the next portion — Route 73 to Peffer Park — is in place and the money will be available in 2019, but actual planning for the project will likely take most of that time. “Because funding cycles take so long, you have to look way out.”
Perry said he likes to think the loop around Oxford can be finished in 10 years but emphasized that is not a prediction. There is a lot of planning ahead as well as grant writing to be completed.
City Council gave approval at its June 20 meeting for submission of a grant request to the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Council of Regional Governments for $1.5 million which will require a $500,000 local match. That $2 million will be used to continue the trail from Peffer Park to Chestnut Field, the former Talawanda High School site now a Miami parking lot.
The greatest portion of that effort will be to construct a pathway beneath the railroad tracks just south of Chestnut Street.
That grant, specifically, will be from OKI money to fund Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality projects aimed at encouraging alternative modes of transportation and decreasing fuel consumption. Money being sought in that grant request will be available in the 2021-23 funding cycle.