Bringing easy access to local parks and playgrounds along with safely connecting Clarke Community school campuses within the city, Osceola’s recreational trail system continues to flourish. With unanimous approval in a recent school board meeting, another crucial section of the trails system was given the green light for development. This section will connect the middle and high school campus at the corner of the football field to the existing paved path looping Q-Pond and extending into the city. This not only adds to the recreational value of Osceola’s parks and trails, but connects the Safe Routes to School program from one end of the city to the other.
“We couldn’t be more excited for the addition,” said Steve Seid, Clarke Community Schools Superintendent. “With this connection, the Safe Routes to School program will provide a safe and secure environment to walk to and from both Clarke campuses and provide access to adjacent parks throughout the city.”
Looking to use city sidewalks and strategic route mapping, planning for the Safe Routes to School program started in earnest in the fall of 2014. With the hopes of providing safe and convenient walkways throughout the city, these routes were intended to help students and families who walk to and from school avoid potentially dangerous traffic areas. Connecting them with the local parks and trails system became an added value brought to light through future planning by the CCDC and the City.
Once word of the plans were public, local community leaders, including Joe Johnson and Bill Black were quick to step up, personally clearing and carving out the initial paths around Q-Pond. In 2015, the City negotiated a land swap with Knapp Properties to help facilitate additional trail development.
Connections for the kids:
The trail system, with the Safe Routes to School program as a beneficiary, quickly grew to meet Osceola’s expanding community with the help of grants through the Wellmark Foundation, as well as matching funds from the CCDC and other organizations. Within the first 18 months, over $150,000.00 in grant funding was committed to development on the program.
- 2015: $56,250 Wellmark Grant with CCDC match for Safe Routes to School
- 2015: $58,500 CCDC grant, completing Phase 1 of Safe Routes to School
The first phase of the Safe Routes program was the widening, updating, and addition of numerous sidewalks in and around the city. These walkways connected the elementary school and surrounding neighborhoods with the middle and high school campuses. Within the year, the system had created a safe, paved pathway for students and families to use year around.
Connections for the family:
In 2017, the city and CCDC started mapping a more extensive trails system to include parks, bike paths, activity centers, and more, extending the trails for miles in and around Osceola and throughout Clarke County. With a full, family-friendly trail system within sight, additional funding was committed.
- 2017: $56,250 Wellmark grant with CCDC match for extension of Safe Routes
- 2017: $45,000 CCDC grant for the Q-Pond loop trail
- 2017: $16,421 CCDC grant in purchase of the land needed for the East Lake trail via the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
- 2018: $100,000 CCDC grant to assist in completion of the trail to East Lake
- 2019: $75,000 REAP Grant to finalize the purchase of land connecting the East Lake trail to the Elementary campus
To date, over $333,900 has been committed by these organizations to the ongoing development of the local trail system as well as Safe Routes to School program.
Connections for the entire community:
Over the past three years, the routes throughout the city have grown to include not only the main sidewalks and paths to and from school campuses, but also connections to East Lake Park on the south east corner of the city and, with the latest school board approval, to the loop at Q-Pond on the north west corner of the city. With a final $65,000 grant, the CCDC was able to shore up the funding to make the latest trail effort a reality, adding the middle and high school campus to the rest of the burgeoning trail network.
“We’re seeing more and more families taking advantage of these beautiful trails every day,” said Bill Trickey, CCDC Executive Director. “That’s really become a tremendous asset to the quality of life in Osceola and Clarke County.”
Final engineering and construction for the Q-Pond connector will start in the spring of 2021. And with plans to connect the sports fields north of the high school, the potential for safe, family friendly activities throughout the city will continue to grow.
For more information about plans and development of the trail systems throughout the city of Osceola and Clarke County, please contact the Clarke County Development Corporation, 115 E Washington St, Osceola, IA 50213, phone: (641) 342-2944, or email: [email protected]
This article was first published on http://clarkecountylife.com.