Since its inception in 1986, Columbus’ system of People Trails has been hailed as a tremendous advance in the city’s quality of life. It also has been praised for its role in providing local residents with greater opportunities to adopt healthier lifestyles through walking, running and jogging.
Officials of the Columbus Economic Development Board consider it one of their main selling points in attracting companies to invest in the community because it adds to an environment that is already family-friendly.
And when an important section will be added to the trails later this year, a number of retail businesses and restaurants in Columbus will be added to the list of supporters who will have benefited from the system.
Work is expected to begin soon on a $200,000 section that will eventually link the existing Haw Creek Trail that now ends at State Street with the downtown.
The newest stretch will provide a solution to a frustrating problem that has been faced by People Trails users since work was completed on the stretch of trail from State Street to Columbus Municipal Airport in 2004. While that was a tremendous addition to the system, it still left no easy access for pedestrians or even bikers to the downtown area by way of Second and Third streets.
The new link will connect to the Haw Creek Trail along Central Avenue by stretching under the State Street Bridge, paralleling the creek until it jogs north of the Louisville & Indiana railroad tracks before ending at Lafayette Avenue.
That could translate into added business for many establishments in the downtown area, especially restaurants. In a sense the downtown, its retail establishments and restaurants could become a regular destination for many people out for a walk or bike ride.
Conversely, downtown pedestrians and bikers will have more direct and easier access to other parts of the city.
In addition to benefiting pedestrians, bikers and business establishments, the enhanced and expanded People Trails system also should be seen as an opportunity to help ease a perennial problem in the city, particularly the downtown. By encouraging residents to walk and bike to the downtown on the easier route instead of driving, officials can open more parking spaces. Businesses might even consider encouraging employees to walk or bike on the People Trails link in place of using a car.
This latest extension of the People Trails is only part of a much larger plan that officials have in mind for the future.
It has involved a considerable amount of money — much of which was raised in the private sector — but the return on this investment has already far outdistanced its cost.