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Oxford breaks ground on next phase of trail development

<p>City officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of OATS on Tuesday, Oct. 1.</p>

City officials held a groundbreaking ceremony for the second phase of OATS on Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Last week, community leaders broke ground near the DeWitt Log House to applause from the crowd of nearly 50 people.

Mayor Kate Rousmaniere, Ted Pickerill, the executive assistant to the President Greg Crawford and Jessica Greene, assistant city manager officiated over the groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 1. This marked the beginning of phase two of construction on the Oxford Area Trail System (OATS). OATS is a paved, multi-use trail being constructed by the city to improve the transportation experience of cyclists and pedestrians. 

Phase one of the trail was completed on schedule in 2017. Phase two will begin construction this month and is scheduled to be completed in 2020. This segment of the trail will run south from Kelly Drive., just north of State Route 73, to Peffer Park, stretching a distance of roughly 3.5 miles. 

The city cited public health interests and money brought in by recreational cyclists as reasons for its construction. They also cited a general fear that most cyclists have riding alongside cars on unsegregated roads. 

Jon Ralinovsky, an Oxford local who has supported OATS for years, is particularly excited about the safer options OATS opens for commuters. 

“Connectivity is a big thing,” Ralinovsky said. “Having the option to be able to commute to work or have kids ride their bikes to school is a great thing.” 

The ceremony began with brief words from Greene. 

“It has been one of the true joys of my career to work on this,” she said.

She was followed by congratulatory speeches from Rousmaniere and Pickerill. The trio was joined by several other community members and a representative from Sunesis Construction, which was awarded the contract to construct phase two in June. 

OATS has been in the works since 2001. It was first conceptualized by Oxford Area Trails, a community committee. At the time, they raised over $30,000 for its construction. The city commissioned a trail alignment study in 2007, but plans for OATS’ construction were later tabled because of the recession.

OATS was resurrected in 2014 as part of the newly-adopted Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Improvement Plan. It was rekindled largely thanks to the efforts of community members, including Greene. 

Greene learned about OATS while working for Enjoy Oxford, and her desire to earn a masters degree in public administration was in part inspired by her experience working behind the scenes to turn OATS into a reality. She personally fundraised over $170,000 for its development. 

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But, Greene attributes the trail system’s success to the Oxford community as a whole.

“There is a hugely supportive community behind this,” Greene said. “Other communities have trail advocates, but they might not have support like this all around them. [In Oxford] we have community support, city council support and administrative support. It’s like puzzle pieces coming together.”

Construction of phase two is projected to cost more than $2,355,155. The major costs stem from railroad crossings, trailhead improvements, river crossings and the lighting of certain segments. 

Phase two is partially funded by a $750,000 grant from the Ohio Kentucky Regional Council of Governments, as well as a $700,000 contribution from Miami. Oxford is providing the remaining $905,155 through a levy which residents approved. The city will continue to seek grants for the construction of future segments.

Much of the land which the trail passes through belongs to the university. Miami was enthusiastic to support the trail and willingly provided the space necessary for its construction. 

City Engineer Scott Otto told The Miami Student that he doesn’t expect any major issues to arise during construction. 

Any potential problems were resolved over the past 18 months of preparation, he said. Earlier this year, an endangered species of crawfish was identified near one future river crossing and safely relocated downstream and the city also redirected OATS’ path around designated wetlands, Otto explained.

Phases three and four of OATS will be constructed simultaneously and completed in 2022. The finished trail will be 6.3 miles long and will span across the entire western and southern sides of Oxford. 

 The city is looking to build more  bike lanes in coming years to further promote safe cycling, Otto said.

“It’s the right time for this project in this community,” Greene said.