McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

February 6, 2014

Grant makes trail possible

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

McALESTER — McAlester’s Safe Trails project has switched into a higher gear with the awarding of a $160,000 grant to the city of McAlester from the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.

The grant will make possible construction to connect the Belmont Trail to Will Rogers Park, the first phase of the McAlester Safe Trails project.

“Obviously, I’m happy we were awarded the grant,” said McAlester Mayor Steve Harrison.

“I know a lot of people worked hard to make it happen,” he said. “Pam Kirby took the lead at City Hall.”

Harrison said he also appreciated the help of McAlester Public Schools students who supported the project by making posters. Others wrote letters of support.

“I was glad to see the students take part,” Harrison said. “This will benefit the kids down the road.”

Kirby wrote the grant application that resulted in the city getting the grant.

Representatives from the

Oklahoma State Department of Tourism and Recreation are set to travel to McAlester on Feb. 12, which is next Wednesday, for an 11 a.m. check presentation at City Hall.

The first phase of the construction will begin with a bridge off Illinois Avenue that’s not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Kirby said. The grants will allow construction to bring the bridge up to ADA standards.

“This will connect that neighborhood with the bridge and the walking trail at Mike Deak Field,” Kirby said. “The Belmont trail is in south McAlester, less than an eighth of a mile from the Will Rogers Elementary School and Will Rogers Park.”

In addition to bringing the bridge up to ADA standards, the grant will pay for almost 2,000 feet of new trail, she said. Kirby said that children from Emerson Elementary School wrote letters of support for the project.

City leaders are hopeful this is only the beginning of what will be a much bigger project.

“Hopefully, the trails system will expand,” the mayor said, referring to the complete Master Trail Plan.

“A Master Trail plan eventually will eventually link up about 25 miles of trails and 25 miles of linkage, such as sidewalks and bicycle lanes,” Harrison said.

Kirby said this the is kick-off project for the entire walking trail system covered in the master plan.

“We will look for funds to complete it,” she said.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.