Mayor Don Wesely announced today he will ask the City Council to transfer funds within the Parks and Recreation Department budget to allow for acquisition of a new trail corridor through Wilderness Park in southwest Lincoln. The trail, to be built on abandoned railroad right-of-way, would be dubbed the Jamaica North Trail, as it begins at the historic Jamaica town site south of Saltillo Road.
"We have a unique opportunity to put this trail through one of our most beautiful and sensitive natural areas," Wesely said. "We have worked for about a year with the Union Pacific Railroad and the Great Plains Trails Network to get to this moment, and I am excited about moving forward."
In October 2001, Union Pacific filed for abandonment of about 8.5 miles of railroad right-of-way extending from a half mile south of Saltillo Road through Wilderness Park. Abandonment of the railroad right-of-way would allow for the trail corridor to extend through "A" Street. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Comprehensive Plan identifies this railroad right-of-way as a future commuter/recreation trail extending through west Lincoln, ultimately connecting downtown Lincoln with the future Homestead Trail to the south. In addition, the City Public Works and Utilities Department may use the right-of-way corridor for easements compatible with the trails to extend of water and sanitary sewer mains in the future.
"Lincoln's premiere trail system is based in large part on abandoned railroad right-of-way," Wesely said. "Acquisition of this piece of abandoned Union Pacific right-of-way is a significant opportunity to provide for extension and connection of the trail system. Being able to use the right-of-way to extend water and sewer utilities is an added incentive." Wesely also thanked Union Pacific for donating a significant portion of the right-of-way.
City staff and representatives of Union Pacific began negotiating for acquisition of the abandoned railroad right-of-way after the request for abandonment was filed with the federal Surface Transportation Board. An agreement for acquisition of the property was finalized in October 2002. The parcel is being acquired under the Trails Act as part of the national "Rails to Trails" program, which preserves the right-of-way for possible future railroad use and allows for the interim use of the land as a recreational trail.
The purchase price of the property will be $605,000. The cost is being shared between City departments, with the Public Works and Utilities Department financing about two-thirds.
"There are considerable real savings to the water and sewer main projects in terms of time and dollars," said Public Utilities Administrator Steve Masters. "Less time will be spent negotiating easements for the future construction projects, and it will be easier to build the projects in the abandoned railroad right-of-way rather than in nearby streets."
The Parks and Recreation Department is cooperating with the Great Plains Trails Network (GPTN) to fund the remaining third of the cost, or about $223,000. GPTN has pledged $100,000 of the acquisition cost. GPTN has also committed to raise an additional $50,000 to develop a master plan for the future trail. The action sought from the City Council would reallocate funds within the Parks and Recreation Department's Capital Improvement Program budget to cover the remainder.
Parks and Recreation Director Lynn Johnson applauded the ongoing partnership between the City and GPTN to expand Lincoln's trail system.
"Without GPTN volunteers, the trail system Lincoln residents prize so highly would not be the outstanding amenity we enjoy every day of the year," Johnson said. "I cannot thank them enough for their tremendous support."