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Developing a trail system is best for Washington Park

In regard to the Nov. 12 article on Washington Park master planning, I would strongly encourage the City Council and the Parks and Recreation Commission to consider the development of a modest trail system within the park. This system would not need to be a “destination-style” system similar to Jakes Rocks but rather a “backyard” system more akin to that at Hatch Run.

This system could be a wonderful amenity for local residents and yet another addition to the area’s growing outdoor recreation portfolio; a portfolio that increasingly includes local businesses such as Allegheny Outfitters and Goat Fort Climbing that can capitalize on our active outdoor recreation amenities. Research and anecdotal evidence point to the value of trail systems in an area’s livability and quality of life measures.

Communities with ample outdoor recreation amenities tend to fare better with resident retention and attracting new residents. Halting the outflow of residents from Warren County will be crucial to future business development and job creation.

A backyard trail system at Washington Park can play a part in reversing this outflow of people and jobs. Trail systems bring communities together; there are many examples of communities across the country experiencing positive outcomes with trail development and the advancement of active outdoor recreation opportunities. Of course, there are also health benefits tied to active outdoor recreation opportunities. The list of positives goes on and on.

Funding limitations were brought up by some in the article. This should not be a limiting factor. There are numerous grant opportunities for trail projects — a system in Washington Park would have no issue with funding. Recently, the International Mountain Bicycling Association provided nearly $150,000 in grant funds from its “Trail Accelerator” Grant Program. Another grant cycle starts in spring 2021. An in-town “backyard” trail system at Washington Park is exactly the type of project that nonprofit groups want to fund.

This is an exciting opportunity for our community. Many in the community would be happy to volunteer for an effort such as this, myself included.

Richard Hatfield is a Warren resident.

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