Seven years after its conception as a simple bike trail, the Fourth Street multi-use trail officially became a reality Wednesday, with officials already looking forward to future improvements.
Mayor Laurie Gill celebrated the grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony and walk along the trail, accompanied by city officials and engineers involved in the project.
The 10,000-foot long, eight-foot wide path connects Garfield Avenue to Governors Drive and was finished in two phases, with the 3,000 section between Garfield and Bristol Place finished in 2010.
The completed trail includes several rest areas and a historic bridge across Mickelson Pond, donated by Hughes County farmer Robert Spaid from his land. The bridge was moved there and reinforced by Fort Pierre-based construction company Morris Inc.
Gill said she initially conceived of the trail as being similar to bike paths running near the Missouri River, but is pleased the project grew beyond that, including the bridge and concrete paving. The trail is and will be a strong recreational asset for the city, she said.
“My dream is to have this trail turned into a real park system,” Gill said.
The city already plans to add to the Mickelson Pond area by providing picnic tables, playground equipment and a dock. The pond itself will be dredged of sediment and stocked with fish to become a kid’s fishing area.
City engineer John Childs said the pond’s level has been roughly 5 feet lower than normal during the construction of the trail, but it will refill to the usual level and be able to serve its new function.
“One year of normal rain and it will be full again,” he said.
While mostly dirt and rock now, the area will be planted with native grasses, Childs said.
City Administrator Leon Schochenmaier said the trail was first thought of when the city received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2005.
The city had received a recommendation that the area needed more pedestrian access, and the project would complete a gap in the city’s trail system. There were also safety concerns with people walking along Fourth Street, especially at night, Schochenmaier said.
However, it took six years to raise the $1.7 million to complete the project, and the shorter section was completed only after receiving stimulus funds from the federal government. The contract to finish the remaining section was awarded last year.
Also, in 2008, the route had to be adjusted following a public meeting held on the issue. The path originally connected with Garfield Avenue further north, but was realigned to follow Fourth Street after residents resisted having the path run through their neighborhood.
But with its completion, Schochenmaier said the city expects to see a dramatic increase in traffic along the path.
“We hope the community gets more active and stays more active,” he said, adding the city has already seen bikers, joggers, and walkers of all ages on the completed portions of the trail.