More than 500 Oxford citizens and Miami University students participated in the 2023 Hike-a-Thon commemorating the progress of the Oxford Area Trail System (OATS) on Saturday, Sept. 9. The OATS project is committed to planning, building and sustaining multi-use pathways to make Oxford “a regional destination and a greater place to live,” according to its website.
The 2023 Hike-a-Thon kicked off with the opening of the newly paved 1.3-mile DeWitt Log Homestead Connector that leads from the DeWitt Trailhead to Leonard Howell Park. The trail is part one of the third phase of the OATS five-phase plan to have 12 miles of multi-use pathways surrounding the City of Oxford.
“Not many small towns have access to 17 miles of trails. So we are so lucky to have the Miami Natural areas, The Oxford Area Trails, and both paved and dirt trails,” said Jessica Greene, the assistant city manager and an organizer of the event. “It’s all just for our community, which is great.”
Some of the key features of the event included an open house at DeWitt Cabin, meeting the ponies with the Miami Equestrian Team, riding E-Bikes with BikeWise, the Deez Tacos food truck, Feathers and Furs booth, bird-watching and a musket demonstration every hour.
“This event has been going on for many years and it used to be run by the Miami Natural Areas under Jim Reid, but when he retired, it died off a little bit,” Greene said. “So we were like, you know what, we should bring this back, and so we brought it back on a small scale last year.”
Greene also said the city included Reena Murphy, the new sustainability director, as it coordinated the project.
Before the trail was paved, it was made of crushed stone, making it less accessible to seniors and others who wanted to bike the trail.
“It’s a pleasant surprise. We are excited to bring wheels on it as well,” Oxford resident Angela Jones said. “We moved here four years ago, and the plans for more multi-use pathways were a big reason why we moved here. That was a big draw.”
The city expects part two of the current OATS phase, which connects Peffer Park to Talawanda High School, to be completed by November this year, along with an additional overlook accompanying the trail. Future plans for the City of Oxford include phase four, which will go from Oxford Community Park to Talawanda Middle School in 2024, and phase five, which will connect the middle school and Talawanda High School by 2025.
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There were plans to design a northwest portion, connecting Oxford Community Park to the Black Covered Bridge, but the project was halted after pushback from the local community due to shared routes and timing.
“It was in the middle of COVID, and we just learned that it wasn’t the right time,” Greene said. “We were like, let's just take a pause, and I think it’s something that we’ll dust off in the future.”