Columbus residents no longer have to imagine what it would be like to safely walk, run, scooter or cycle from Lake North down along 33rd Avenue and vice-versa.
It’s a reality thanks to the recent competition of phase one of the Powerhouse Park Trail.
The trail, situated between the south bank of the Lost Creek flood control and the north side of Lost Creek Parkway from Wilderness Road to 33rd Avenue, is part of the City of Columbus’ master trail plan.
It equates to about a 1-mile long concrete paved trail adjacent to Lost Creek Parkway that connects a group of trails near kwELITE and the Parkway Plaza business complex, Columbus High School, Columbus Community Hospital, Pillen Family Farms, Columbus Family Practice and Sunset Park to Lake North, Loup Power Park and Campground, as well as Lake Babcock.
“I think it’s a great connection, being able to go on foot or bike or whatever you’d like from the main part of town all of the way to Lake North,” said Erika Kim, president of Columbus Area Recreational Trails (CART).
“It’s a great quality of life asset being able to go on a trail for a long distance if you want and can do that.”
This project came together after the Columbus City Council earlier this year approved a resolution for a master trail plan, with the trail plan connecting existing and proposed paths throughout the community.
The plan also includes a proposed route through town recommended by the Great American Rails to Trails, the nation’s largest trails organization whose mission is to help connect more than 145 current trails, greenways and other multi-use paths that would span more than 3,700 miles over 12 states. That trail would travel through Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington.
What pushed the City toward creating a master trail plan was the feedback it received from a community survey issued by the Parks and Recreation Department in the spring, according to City Administrator Tara Vasicek.
“The No. 1 thing people said they love and want more of is trails,” Vasicek said.
There were multiple funding sources for the first phase of the project that opened to the public this fall, including a trail grant from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for $250,000. That amount was matched through a partnership from the City of Columbus, Lower Loup Natural Resource District and Columbus Area Recreational Trails, Vasicek noted.
“It connects all the north trail system to the northwest side of town, so it’s definitely a nice addition for long distance,” she said.
“In the next couple of years, we plan to add some trees on the Parkway along the trail so that it’s a really nice environment and aesthetically more pleasing and visually protected. We want to make it more comfortable, more scenic.”
Mueller said she’s proud Parkway Plaza was built in a growing hub in Columbus, noting she encourages people to stop by the building to eat at Big Apple Bagels and utilize the surrounding trails when the weather permits.
“Columbus is a great place and there is so much opportunity out there. Growing up, you think, ‘it’s boring, there’s nothing to do.’” Mueller said. “But it’s really just the opposite. There is a ton of opportunity here you don’t even realize.”
The City’s annual budget reset on Oct. 1, the city administrator said, and officials will work to determine how to allocate funds to the next phase of the master trail plan.
“We set money aside each year in our budget to make the master trail plan come to fruition,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kim said Columbus C.A.R.T. is encouraged by the latest trail’s completion.
“I definitely think it helps,” said Kim, who enjoys running and cycling. “Being able to have that makes it easier for anyone who wants to use it, to use it.”