Parks and Recreation Director Jody Baker spoke at last week’s City Council meeting on the proposed expansion of the Rock Creek Trail System and a $300K Recreation Trails Program Grant funding request.
Baker said that when he took the Director job 3 years ago, local leaders Pete Egan and David Beyer separately approached him with a “great idea.” Each had a similar vision for a trail system in Sapulpa. Baker loved the idea and has been working on it since.
Monday evening he said he is applying for a grant that will fund building the largest chunk of the trail, from Hickory to Jefferson Heights Elementary, around 1⅓ miles. The asphalt trail will be a width of ten feet, ADA-compliant, and for non-motorized traffic. Baker said that while trails require a lot of capital to build, “they offer benefits that far exceed” the cost.
The Recreation Trails Program Grant for which he is applying would put the Rock Creek Trail System on a list to be considered a necessary trail. He said the trail is “key in reducing barriers to movement in South Sapulpa.”
The trail extension will “serve as a vital connection in south Sapulpa, overcoming the current lack of protected pedestrian crossings on multiple four-lane roads south of Taft Avenue and inability to cross Biven’s Creek,” Baker told the Council. When completed, the whole trail system will provide a safe, uninterrupted 1 2/3 miles of trail from South Main Street to South Wickham Road, connecting multiple neighborhoods and apartment complexes to Jefferson Heights Elementary, Walmart, and a variety of recreational amenities.
The grant for which Baker is applying is an 80/20 matching grant with the Federal Government, and the total cost of the project is $462K. $62K has already been earmarked for the project by the Park Friends foundation and the remainder can be made up using Park Development funds. Going “above and beyond helps our rankings and shows the community is invested in our trail system,” Baker stated. When asked by the Council how likely it is that we will receive the $300K grant, Baker said, “I believe we look pretty good to the selection committee.”
Baker says that this extension is “right in line with what we’re planning with the donated Salvation Army property [west of Hickory] and our Master Trail Plan. We’re looking to bring adult softball and other things over there, and everything will be in one area.” He said that between Hickory and Wickham there are 1,420 residents, 153 of whom have disabilities, which is around 27% of the area’s households. “That’s why it’s important our trail system has ADA access for walkers and cyclists.” There will also be room on the shoulders of the trail for people to stop and rest, should they need it.
The trail will also provide more and better opportunities for people to be active, alternative means of transportation, and sustaining value. Trail systems are also attractive to young house buyers with kids who are looking for more options to get outside for themselves and their children.
Another major benefit to this trail is for school kids whose parents lack reliable transportation, which is one of the highest contributing causes of chronic absenteeism in schools.
Baker reported that running, jogging, and bicycling are among the most popular outdoor activities with the highest occurrence of participation. “I see that as a factor that this trail would help promote healthy lifestyles in Sapulpa,” said Baker. There are also no close bike or shoe stores here anymore—perhaps the trail would also help boost the economy in the form of more retail establishments catering to active lifestyles?
State Representative Mark Lawson spoke on behalf of the project and publicly offered his support for it. He said that it “truly is a public” endeavor. The trail “passes nearly 100 workplaces and is free to the public.” There is not an amenity involved that any family will have to pay to use. This is good for behavioral issues like obesity and food insecurity issues. Some residents may not have access to groceries, for example, but would be able to safely walk to buy them on the trail.
Lawson said the most important thing for the grant committee to know is that there is already “so much public buy in for this project.” There are private businesses who have contributed, local civic organizations, and local foundations.
Representative Lawson is writing a letter of support and plans to gather signatures from other citizens wishing to sign on with their support. Sapulpa Times will disseminate that information when it is received.