North Platte Trails Network looks to expand, increase safety of trail system

Anthony Hinde helps his 3-year-old son, Royce, cross West State Farm Road by the North Platte Community College Thursday afternoon. The North Platte Trails Network has applied for a federal grant with the goal of connecting trails and ending the need for users to cross the busy country road for access to them.

A local group is working toward extending a recreational trail while increasing safety for those who walk, run or ride on it.

The North Platte Trails Network has applied for a federal grant to connect a roughly half-mile trail that runs along West State Farm Road, just outside the North Platte city limits, with the existing Buffalo Bill and the West Central Research and Extension trails.

The project would not only increase the overall mileage of trails in the area but also end the need for trail users to cross the busy county road. It has been a concern for years and was spotlighted by an accident where a bicyclist was killed after being struck by a car on West State Farm Road in 2011.

“It’s just a narrow county road. There’s not wide shoulders and there’s not a lot of room,” Ann Dimmitt, a trails network board member, said earlier this week. “Even if you get on the shoulder to get out of the way (of vehicles), it’s kind of an angle, and it is just not really conducive to the amount of people who use it.”

The cost of the project is estimated at $204,603.

The North Platte group applied for a grant through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Recreation Trails Program. The Recreational Trails Program grant is funded by the Federal Highway Administration and would cover 80 percent of the project.

The North Platte Trails Network raised the other 20 percent through fundraisers, grants and contributions and donations from local businesses and residents.

The proposed path begins at the northeast corner of the Buffalo Bill Road trail and the West State Farm Road intersection. It will then head east until just before the Echo Drive intersection, where it will pass over West State Farm Road and connect with the existing trail on the south side of the road on the University of Nebraska property.

The recipients of the grant will be notified in January. If North Platte is accepted, work on the new trail section could start next summer, but Dimmitt said it might take at least a year to be completed.

Funds for the RTP grant come from a portion of the federal motor fuel excise tax paid by users of off-road recreational vehicles.

The North Platte Trails Network held a pair of public meetings over the last year and a half to determine the safest location to connect the trails.

Samantha Geisler, sports and events marketing specialist for the North Platte Area Sports Commission, said it’s not just local residents who have shown an interest in the area’s recreational trails, which stretch roughly 30 miles. Some travelers who stop by the North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau ask about the trails.

“There’s a lot of that. We just had people yesterday pull up (to the visitors bureau) and ask where the trails were,” said Geisler, who also is a trails network board member. “They pulled their bikes off the back of their vehicle and took off.”

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