Omaha to Lincoln bike trail clears hurdle
June 3rd, 2014
Omaha, NE – Currently if a bicyclist wants to get to Lincoln from Omaha, in the most economical way, they have to use the Grand Army of the Republic Highway or US HWY 6.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/FINAL.mp3]
But there has been movement to finish existing trails that would connect the two cities.
Ross Greathouse, vice president of the Nebraska Trails Foundation (NTF), said there has been a push to connect both Omaha and Lincoln with a new recreational trail since the late 1970s. He said the real push has come in the last decade with help from both the Lower Platte South Natural Resource District (LPSNRD) and the Papio-Missouri River NRD.
The Missouri Pacific Trail, or the MoPac, is a trail which runs from 84th street in Lincoln eastward to Wabash, Neb., approximately 22 miles. There is also a trail heading southwest out of Omaha, which ends just east of the Platte River Railroad corridor. However, there is a gap between the two trails of less than 10 miles, between Wabash and South Bend.
The MoPac was purchased by NTF and the trail was subsequently deeded to the LPSNRD, according to Greathouse. He said LPSNRD and the Papio-Missouri River NRD redeveloped the master trails plan to connect both Omaha and Lincoln. Greathouse said this has taken a massive amount of patience by developers and members of the community alike.
“I always tell people who get involved in trail building that they better develop some patience,” Greathouse said. “It going to be required and it’s really true in this case.”
Recently, the LPSNRD signed an agreement with Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR) which allows them to develop along County Highway 1 and 66 to make the connection across the Platte River. Before this NDOR had a standing policy of not allowing new trails to be built along rural highways.
Glen Johnson, general manager at Lower Platte South NRD, said through work with NDOR both sides reached a compromise.
“Until we were able to continue discussions with NDOR, we proposed an agreement with them,” Johnson said. “They considered it and came back with a counter agreement. It outlined very specific conditions and if we were willing to agree to them and come up with an acceptable design. They would consider an exception to their policy.”
Greathouse said the work up to this point has been arduous, but reaping the rewards of this compromise has been sweet.
“I find it very heartening that we got this part done,” Greathouse said. “The NDOR has done a phenomenal job at helping build trails in Nebraska.”
Greathouse said, thus far, $14.5 million has been spent on the trail.
Terry Genrich, natural resource and greenways manager for the Lincoln Parks and Recreations Department, said this trail will help communities more than just recreationally.
“We really see this as an opportunity for economic development from the history we have with the other trails that extend east of out Lincoln,” Genrich said. “We see this as another way to connect Lincoln and Omaha with something other than a vehicle. Recreation is important in the community, it definitely makes for a healthy lifestyle and we are doing everything we can to promote that.”
Corey Godfrey, vice president of the Great Plains Trails Network in Lincoln, said he rides the MoPac every week. He said it will be sad if the trail remains unfinished.
“To have a trail that ends in the middle of nowhere seems kind of like a tragedy,” Godfrey said. “Especially if there is another trail coming from the east, heading west, and ending at the Platte. We want to do our due diligence and get the last few miles finished from Wabash to the Platte. It’s also going to be used and it’s good for the communities along the route too.”
Michael Blessing, a cyclist from Lincoln, said he rides 50 miles a day. He said the interest in cycling has increased over the past few years locally. Blessing said he thinks one day we could see people making the trip to Lincoln, from Omaha, for big football games.
“Think about football Saturday’s in the fall, what better way to get down here (Lincoln) and back and not deal with all the traffic,” Blessing said.
Godfrey said once the trail is completed his weekly bicycle trips with friends could grow.
“We have a ride we usually do on Sunday mornings,” Godfrey said. “We ride from Lincoln out to the Platte River State Park. If the trail went all the way through the Platte, we would definitely take that all the way. There is a large group of people who would be using that trail on a daily basis.”
Johnson said the agreement between LPSNRD and NDOR is just the next step in completing the trail. He said a realistic time-frame for completion would be at least five years away. The next steps are just as important, according to Johnson.
“What would be the best route from a physical standpoint, a right of way standpoint and a cost standpoint has been part of the process and challenge,” Johnson said.
The Papio-Missouri River NRD continues work this summer, with 4.5 miles being added onto the trail, on the Omaha side of the Platte River. Following this the city of Springfield, Neb. will add on another one mile section.
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