City plots path forward on trail system

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Long before Phase I of the Creekside Trail was officially opened Saturday, City of Kilgore staffers were well into planning the next stretch of the sprawling path.

Designs for Phase II have steadily-evolved since the citywide trail system first took shape several years back. A key question still hasn’t been answered, but City Hall is in talks with personnel from Texas Department of Transportation and Texas Parks & Wildlife to finalize their vision.

The first leg of the trail connects Stone Road to Dudley, crossing Houston Street as it runs along Meadowbrook Park and Meadowbrook Golf Course.

For Phase II, Kilgore City Manager Josh Selleck says, “The original plan was to cross Dudley, then head down past the schools and have a trailhead on the south part of town somewhere. The original problem we ran into was that we here having a hard time finding a cost-effective way to cross Dudley,” he noted this week. “We’ve been working with TxDOT, and we’ve been concerned about the cost of the options eating up most of the funds for the trail just to get across the road.”

Over or under, it’s an expensive prospect to take trail users safely from the south end of Phase I to the north end of Phase II, at least as it’s currently laid out on the map.

“We opted to change the route and try to get Texas Parks & Wildlife to approve an alternate route which was going to go down Dudley (west) to 259. Their reaction was that it moved the trail too far away from what the original grant was for, both in location and in type of trail.”

In that instance, Selleck explained, it would become more of a sidewalk than a trail.

“While they didn’t dislike that option, they did say it would require a new grant application for Fiscal ’19 funding instead.”

Phase I cost approximately $350,000, covered between TPW’s $200,000 grant and matching funds from Kilgore Economic Development Corporation. The local contribution was drawn from 4A(s) monies raised from a half-cent tax for quality of life projects.

Current estimates for Phase II are about $400,000, Selleck said, hopefully offset with $250,000 in the federal funds administered by the state wildlife agency. It’s a more expensive project for slightly-less trail – the first phase runs about 1.7 miles compared to the 1.3-mile estimate for the second length.

Relying on the state’s allocation to see the project through, plans are focused once again on crossing Dudley and heading south.

“We’re once again engaging TxDOT,” Selleck said, this time with a few more innovations to keep the crossing in-budget: “We’re asking them to help us identify a cost-effective way to get across Dudley. We’ve had a new idea or two they’re investigating the feasibility of.”

That includes, perhaps, carving out a portion of the roadway-adjacent retaining wall to accommodate trailer users until they can pass under the road via nearby bridge.

Speaking with the state’s engineers, “If that isn’t feasible, tell us what we can do that’s cost effective and is safe,” he said. “We’ve had a very good relationship with our local TxDOT rep, so we’re hopeful with all our brains together we can figure out a path forward on this.”

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