Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Great Urban Katy Trail - Enjoy!!!

Typically, we think of a trail as a place to run, walk, bike or blade.
With recent upgrades, the Katy Trail is that and much more.
In addition to being a place to exercise and commune with nature, it's also a popular spot to bond with neighbors.
"One of the big draws for me is the sense of community," says Eric Paulson, a frequent trail user. "I tend to use the trail at the same time every day. There's a sense of seeing people you know or getting to know people you see often, which promotes more of a sense of community."
The trail creates 125 contiguous acres of parkland in the densest part of Dallas, says Eric Van Steenburg, the executive director of Friends of the Katy Trail.
"It's an urban environment where you're not sealed in your car," says Mr. Paulson, a Friends of the Katy Trail member. "You're outside, seeing people in a community meeting place. It's like an old town square."
Debbie Fetterman writes about fitness for Healthy Living. To share story ideas and favorite fitness activities, contact her at fitinthecity@ dfwrunning.com.
New this week
Did you know:
•The new Reverchon Park Project will be used during Thursday's benefit event, which includes a 5K and a picnic. This privately funded, $1.3-million capital-improvement campaign includes a 750-foot ramp providing easy wheelchair access between the trail and the park, which is 40 feet below; the C.J. "Tommy" Thomsen Overlook, where the ramp connects to the trail; and a gathering area, the Briggs-Freeman Plaza, which intersects with the ramp and then connects to the Turtle Creek Trail.
•The section of the trail from Knox Street to Airline Road will have new landscaping, which will provide aesthetic and practical features including much-needed shade.
•There are two new drinking fountains, one at the Thomsen Overlook and one at Briggs-Freeman Plaza.
To be completed by year's end
Did you know:
•Lights will be installed. They will be 25 feet tall, 100 to 150 feet apart, painted dusty green to blend with nature. Mr. Van Steenburg says the lights will have deflectors to ensure that light will shine on the trail and not spill into people's back yards.
•Lighting is partially funded by a government grant. A contract with an installer should be in place by summer with installation starting in the fall. The lights will begin at the south end near American Airlines Center and continue as far as the budget allows. The remainder must be privately funded.
Planned but not funded

The new Thomsen Overlook addition
Did you know:
•You can have the 3.1-mile soft-surface running trail named in your honor for a cool $2 million. That's the price tag to complete the final mile from Blackburn to Knox, which is the most expensive because of slopes and grades. In addition, two bridges must be built.
"We have people that are interested and thinking about it," Mr. Van Steenburg says.
•More money must be raised to ensure proper maintenance, landscaping, weeding and watering of the 30 acres along the trail. One way to help is by joining Friends of the Katy Trail at www.katytraildallas.org.
"We're required to be fully funded before we can begin another element of the trail," Mr. Van Steenburg says.
Along the trail
Did you know:
•The trail showcases four distinct zones with assorted vegetation. Beginning at the south end, the landscape is akin to the Texas Hill Country. As you move north, the trail becomes heavily wooded. Then, there is an urban zone in which residents live adjacent to the trail. Finally, north of Knox, the trail exhibits blackland prairie characteristics.
•Migratory birds rest on the trail annually, as do monarch butterflies each fall and spring. Barn owls flock to the TXU utility towers and help reduce the rodent population, Mr. Van Steenburg says.
•A dramatic view of the Dallas skyline can be seen from Lemmon Avenue south to Victory Park.
•There also are picturesque views of the water fountain at Lee Park from the bridge overlooking Lee Park.
•The Thomsen Overlook features a huge front wall with seven layers of limestone blocks quarried from the Hill Country.
•The new Briggs-Freeman Plaza features 1930s-style stonework and benches that are designed to blend with the adjacent Reverchon Park architecture.
Trail tidbits

Did you know:
•The Katy Trail traces the greenbelt along the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT or "Katy") Railroad, which began operating in 1887. The tracks were abandoned after 100 years. In the early 1990s, community and civic leaders proposed transforming the tracks into the trail. In 1993, Union Pacific Railroad donated three miles of the railway to the city of Dallas. Thus began the Katy Trail.
•Limestone from the time the railroad was built has been unearthed by trimming vegetation along the trail.
•The Katy Trail is a key link connecting White Rock Lake to the Trinity River. Dallas has approximately 87 miles of trails. They're a combination of hard-surface and nature trails. Once complete, the Dallas Trail Network Master Plan will contain 230 miles, according to the City of Dallas Park and Recreation Department plan. The plan is expected to be complete in 15 to 20 years.