MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 19, 2013

Coody Creek trail project gains fed grant

Area near expected trailhead considered for dog park

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Plans for the construction of a recreational trail along the banks of Coody Creek will move forward with the award of federal funds approved for the project.

City officials applied for a $200,000 recreational trails grant, but the award was capped at $160,000 because of the availability of funds. Parks and Recreation Director Mark Wilkerson said the difference will be offset with dedicated funds from the city’s capital improvements program.

“We will still be able to do at least as much was we were prepared to do,” Wilkerson said about the scope of first-phase construction. “Instead of a 20 percent match, it will be more like a 40 percent match.”

The first phase of the Coody Creek Trail project will begin at Centennial Trail and follow South Seventh Street toward Coody Creek, where it would turn southeast toward U.S. 64. At that point, the trail would parallel the highway to where it crosses the creek.

A trailhead — an area featuring parking spaces, benches, a drinking fountain and other amenities — will be built where South Second Street converges with Madison Street. Wilkerson said a 5- to 10-acre area owned by the city near the planned trail head is being eyed for a dog park.

“There is a nice, open area with a tree canopy that I think would be nice for a dog park,” Wilkerson said, noting the additional funds needed for the added project would come from a five-year parks grant awarded by the City of Muskogee Foundation. “You just can’t stick them anywhere, but the fact we will have money to pay for parking and water makes this a good place for a dog park.”

City Clerk Pam Bates, an animal lover and longtime advocate for a dog park in Muskogee, said finding the right location “was always the key element” for planners. She said the central location and the availability of shade trees are elements that topped her list of priorities.

“When Mr. Wilkerson started talking about the Coody Creek Trail project, everything just fell into place,” Bates said. “I’m really excited about this, and I know dog owners across the city will enjoy coming the park to play.”

Plans for the trail project began 38 years ago after Muskogee voters approved a $250,000 bond issue to fund the development of a park alongside Coody Creek. Much of that money was used to acquire property and clean up parts of the creek bed, but the linear park envisioned in 1974 never materialized.

During the following four years, what was intended to be a three-phase project waxed and waned as city officials wrangled over the scope of the project. Since 1978, when park supporters complained about “foot-dragging and inflation” but accepted the realities of a scaled-down project, the creek has meandered toward the Arkansas River with minimal development.

The projected costs for first-phase construction of the Coody Creek trail is about $250,000, with 60 percent — or $160,000 — coming from the federal trail grant. The balance would come from capital improvement funds dedicated for trail development. Wilkerson said he expects construction will begin by summer.

A subsequent phase would extend the trail from U.S. 64 along Coody Creek to Gulick Street and terminate just north of Burbank Street. The termination point would be near the trail at Robison Park, about a half-mile north at Gulick and Augusta streets.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.