The Springfield Conservancy District will spend about $500,000 to extend the bike path underneath the Plum Street bridge, connecting Veterans Park and Snyder Park and improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.
By connecting the two parks, it will create one long, linear park linking the west end of town at Route 40 to downtown at Fountain Avenue, said Pete Noonan, president of the conservancy district.
“We think it’s a real community asset that helps Springfield talk about its infrastructure and gives National Trail the opportunity to do interesting programming,” Noonan said. “It really gives Springfield a chance to put itself on the map. People will say: ‘That’s the town with the really cool parks system’.”
Since 2010, the two parks have seen more than $2.4 million in improvements, including the new $1.3 million bridge into Snyder park on Snyder Street, about $650,000 for the new playground and splash pad at Snyder Park and $500,000 for upgrades to the Veterans Park amphitheater, the home of the Summer Arts Festival.
The plan would extend the bike path underneath the Plum Street bridge, including building a bridge over Buck Creek, connecting to Snyder Park Road east of the whitewater area, Noonan said. The extension project could be completed this year, if bids come in under budget, Noonan said.
“If the numbers are too high, it would delay our plans a year,” Noonan said.
The Springfield Conservancy District receives about $400,000 per year through a 0.53-mill property tax, which is used to protect the Buck Creek waterway.
Conservancy districts are political subdivisions, according to the Ohio Revised Code. They are formed by local landowners or other government entities to solve water management problems, including flooding. The districts can also provide recreational opportunities for those waterways, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The district’s mission is to protect the Buck Creek waterway. NTPRD maintains the Buck Creek corridor for the conservancy district.
Plum Street can be difficult to cross for both walkers and cyclists, Noonan said. During big crowds at the arts festival, people will park on the west side of Plum Street and have to travel across, Noonan said.
“It’s a hassle and dangerous,” he said. “While the arts festival people do try to have that pretty well policed, it’s still difficult.”
The project will also extend the bike path to the west end of Snyder Park, allowing cyclists to ride from that location to C.J. Brown Reservoir, Noonan said.
“It’s about a seven-mile stretch,” Noonan said. “If you were to do a round trip, that’s a 14-mile ride. That’s a decent ride for somebody in a day.”
The bridge would improve safety for walkers, joggers and bicyclists who now have to cross Plum Street to travel between the two parks, said National Trail Parks and Recreation District Director Leann Castillo.
“It’s hard for cars, especially pulling out of Snyder Park to go out onto Plum,” Castillo said. “If you pull up, you can see to get out, but it’s very dangerous for cars and bikes. It would be very beneficial to keep the bike traffic flowing without having to go on a main road.”
A few years ago, the size of the walls on the bridge were reduced to allow for better visibility for drivers and pedestrians, said Springfield Engineer Leo Shanayda — which has cut down the number of calls from residents about the intersection.
“We haven’t received any since that (project),” Shanayda said. “The line of sight coming out of the park was bad. It seems to have improved it.”
The extension will also allow for better managing of 5K and 10K runs, Noonan said.
“It will give them more flexibility to come under Plum Street on a bike path that didn’t require hiring off-duty police,” he said. “It will allow whoever is sponsoring the race to keep the racers and walkers off the road. It makes sense and it’s something we’ve been trying to get handled for several years.”
Springfield is also spending about $1.3 million to move the Little Miami Scenic Trail off city roads and onto dedicated trails, which is expected to be completed later this year.
The current bike path at Veterans Park is great because there’s not much traffic, said Clark County Juvenile court employee Barbie Jenks, who was running through the park during her lunch break on Tuesday. The new plan is a much better option than crossing Plum Street into Snyder Park, she said.
“Anytime you don’t have to cross traffic is a safer option,” Jenks said.
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