Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Walk this way: Shunga Trail addition celebrated

KDOT's Division of Planning and Development Director, Chris Herrick (Center) and other Topeka and Shawnee County officials celebrate the completion of a one-half mile extension of the Shunga Trail. Photo courtesy of WIBW-TV.
Outdoor recreation fans in Topeka have a huge reason to celebrate. A ribbon cutting marking the completion of the newest extension of Shunga Trail took place on Thursday. The new, one-half mile addition to the trail will provide patrons with direct access to a portion of the city that was previously difficult to reach on foot. It runs west of Fairlawn Road underneath I-470 and S.W. 29th Street to a sidewalk along S.W. McClure Road.

Chris Herrick, KDOT’s Division of Planning and Development Director, said the City of Topeka completed this project with a Transportation Enhancement grant from KDOT.
We are pleased to have been able to assist with this project, which is important to the public,” Herrick said. “This project is a great example of the different levels of government working together for the common good. The whole community can enjoy and benefit from this trail addition.”

Matthew Messina, KDOT’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, said that this project made a safe connection to the city’s trail network by bypassing barriers that aren’t safe or legal for pedestrians and bicyclists to use.
“The main benefit is creating the connection with the southwest Topeka community and continuing the development of a safe trail network that people can use to recreate or access daily essentials like school, work, church, grocery stores, restaurants, shops, healthcare centers and more,” Messina said.

Topeka Mayor Larry Wolgast said that although the extension only creates an additional one-half mile to Shunga Trail, it provides a safe route for school students attending French Middle School and McEachron Elementary.
“Students walking to school will no longer have to cross a busy intersection at S.W. 29th Street,” Wolgast said.
Shawnee County Commissioner Bob Archer said that the extension of the Shunga Trail was significant.

A shot of the Shunga Trail's new addition. Photo courtesy of WIBW-TV
“It opens direct access to the trail to an entire new area of our community south of S.W. 29th Street,” Archer said. “The Shunga Trail is the largest trail within Shawnee County Parks and Recreation, now totaling 8 1/2 miles, with park patrons using it to walk, jog, bicycle and even commute to and from work.”
There are multiple benefits for this new addition, one of them being an economic development angle.

Our parks and recreation department asked that the trail be located along the south side of Shunganunga Creek where it will enhance the planned Wheatfield Village retail and residential development at 29th Street and Fairlawn Road,” Archer said.
John Knight, Director of Shawnee Parks and Recreation, said connectivity of the trails is important.

“In our research for our Master Plan, the public told us that the number one amenity they desire in our parks and recreation system is trails and nature areas,” Knight said. “People can now ride a bike from south of S.W. 29th Street all the way to N.E. 2nd Street where the Shunga Trail connects with the Deer Creek Trail.”

“KDOT looks forward to developing more trails like this in the future, in Topeka and other Kansas communities as well,” Messina said.

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