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October 17th, 2019

lacf trails forum photoCommunity members Elizabeth Irby, left, Darlene Ford, standing, and Kathy Bloom, right, explore where new walking and bike paths should be built Wednesday evening during the Liberal Area Coalition for Families public forum at Eisenhower Middle School. L&T photo/Robert PierceROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times


Some community leaders and members of the Liberal Area Coalition for Families spent time looking at maps Wednesday night.

The activity was part of the coalition’s public forum at Eisenhower Middle School to allow people to voice thoughts on what needs to be done with local walking and biking trails.

As they looked at the maps, which showed routes for walking and biking in the community, they marked areas where they felt more trails could be constructed.

LACF Director Sarah Foreman said Wednesday’s meeting had a good turnout, but she had hoped for more.

“I am thankful for the people who came, but I don’t think it was an accurate representation of all the sectors in the community,” she said. “We’d really like more feedback from people.”

Much of the coalition’s programming is focused on health, and while that plays a part in the need for new paths, both Foreman and coalition member Susan Lukwago said there is more to the puzzle.

“The more walkable and bikeable our city and county is, no matter what income level you are,” Lukwago said.

“You can get from point A to point B with ease,” Foreman said. “The goal is overall connectivity and to create an environment that encourages that.”

Part of Wednesday’s forum was a short presentation from Abby St. George of the advocacy firm, Ped Net. As part of that talk, St. George talked to the economic benefits of having more trails.

“When you have people out walking and biking, you’re helping your local economy when you’re purchasing things and potentially bringing in new businesses because they know that’s what the younger generation is looking for – places where they can walk and bike,” she said.

St. George said she spent time earlier this week walking Liberal gathering points of data. That data now will be sent to a GIS person at PedNet to map out.

St. George talked about what will be learned from the study her company conducted.

“You can get a picture of your community and see where you have sidewalks, where you’re lacking sidewalks, where you maybe have sidewalks but they’re in basically unusable condition,” she said. “They’re deteriorated so much that most people can’t use for transportation purposes. Take that information, take the feedback from the community, and that will help determine where we prioritize our sidewalk routes, where people need to go, where people are going or would like to go but can’t get there.”

Lukwago said the coalition would now like to receive feedback from the community, and they can do so by visiting the Web site

“We will have a chance to look at those comments and incorporate that into determining what priority areas we will work on,” she said.

Comments on walking trails will be taken through Sept. 14, but feedback on bike paths will be taken for a little longer.

“We’ll have our transplanter come back and further investigate whatever priority trail, but for the sidewalks and bike lanes and on-street facilities, they’ll have until basically Oct. 31 to give their comment and their feedback on that,” St. George said.

Some of the discussion amongst community members while they looked at the maps centered around putting paths in more populated areas. Lukwago said population is not necessarily a determining factor of the need for trails.

“You want ways for transportation where people live so they can go from A to B, but also, you can do it for leisure,” she said. “One of the things we talked about was being able to go around the city or going around big parts of the city. In some parts, there is not a lot of population, but if you’re walking or biking or running or need groceries, you might need to go through an area that necessarily doesn’t have a lot of population.”

Once locations for the trails are determined, Foreman said work still needs to be done before construction starts.

“Having a plan is not a guarantee these will all be built,” she said. “However, having a plan does put us in a better position when we apply for available funds.”

Foreman also said funding the project will likely come from many different places.

“I’m sure the school district, county, city will also be looking independently for what fits their priority the best,” she said. “The goal is that it’s a joint effort. There’s certain grants that the school district can apply for. If it fits within their priority of what they want to do, they’ll apply for it. The city and the county jointly want an area approved. They will apply for that, and wherever the coalition can be a catalyst to help move those grants forward or get grants, that’s what we’ll do.”

As for when construction will start, Foreman said much of that depends on funding.

“The plan will be done in December,” she said. “It would be termed shovel ready at that time. It’s just a funding cycle game – when funds are available, when we can write them and when they’re awarded.”

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