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County commissioners move ahead with plans for bike trails

Crawford County officials are moving forward with an initiative to include several walking and biking trails in Crawford County.  

County commissioners from Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford counties met together Feb. 12, 2019, in Fort Scott, Kansas, to unveil the “ABC Trails Active Transportation Plan.” The ABC Trails Plan is a cooperative project between Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford counties, aimed toward the development of active transportation within all three counties. This plan is the first of its kind in Kansas. Brad Stroud, executive director of Live Well Crawford County, said the plan is to connect Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford counties with bike-trails. 

“… What we did is we came up with paved county road routes between Iola and Pittsburg, Iola and Fort Scott, and Fort Scott and Pittsburg,” Stroud said.  “… We’ve identified the trails that exist and also identified potential projects that can be done in each county for bike trails… and then we’ve also got other plans outside of the three counties that can maybe connect and tap into those.” 

Crawford County currently has local trails and Stroud said the most popular would be the TransAmerica Trail, which traverses east-west through Crawford County. It begins in the northwest, passes through Walnut Street on Highway-146, turns south on Highway-7, travels through Girard, and finally exits Crawford County through Pittsburg on Highway-126. 

“People that ride that far, they would venture from that route to go ride a different trail,” Stroud said. “We have people come from a long (way) to do those things.” 

Crawford County has several plans already in the works. The Watco Trail Extension is an approximately seven-mile long proposed trail which will run along the abandoned Watco rail line from Quincy Street in Pittsburg to the eastern edge of Cherokee. The surface of the Watco Trail would be predominately gravel. Another trail is planned to run from Girard to Crawford State Park and be approximately 10 miles long. The proposed route would use a combination of the Second Cow Creek, the active railroad line through Farlington, Kansas, and State Park property on the north side of the lake. The trail surface on the Girard/Farlington trail would be concrete.  

Stroud said trails are a great way to “develop an active and healthy community, as well as create economic opportunities.” 

“There’s a lot of economic benefits to the trails,” Stroud said. “It’s attractive to people in the community, it is attractive to people outside the community, (and) they are attractive to potential businesses that want to locate somewhere,” he said.  “… They look at those things, (because) they want to have opportunities for their (employees) to be healthy.” 

Stroud said another thing prospective businesses considered was the safety of people who partake in healthy-living activities.  

“What we want out of it is a safe place for people to be able to live active and also provide safety,” Stroud said. “In town, there’s not sidewalks everywhere, there’s busier streets, there’s always the threat of vehicle-traffic… Especially these days, with texting and distractions in the car you know… This would allow a family of four to go out and relax and ride bikes on the trail, and enjoy family time together.” 

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