The Lehigh Portland Trails held its Grand Opening celebration on June 25th.
A series of speakers, including Thrive Allen County Executive Director David Toland, Iola Industries President John McRae, Allen County Commissioner Jerry Daniels, and Mike Goodwin of the Kansas Trails Council, spoke about the history of the Lehigh Portland Trails property, about trail development, and what the trails mean for economic development, business recruitment, and quality of life.
The event was also an opportunity to thank the many individuals, groups, and businesses who volunteered and contributed to the project. Businesses included Dieker Farms, J&J Contractors, Monarch Cement, Payless Concrete, T&E Company, DofK Vaults, Nelson Quarries, Allen County, and the City of Iola. A number of civic organizations contributed, such as the University of Kansas Alternative Breaks, the Neosho County Community College Upward Bound program, and the Allen County Community College Baseball team. The core group of volunteers — Dave and Lisa Fontaine, Dave Riebel, Don Burns, and Randy Rasa — were also highlighted for the thousands of hours of volunteer time that they contributed.
Following the speeches at Elm Creek Park South, the party moved to the restored Sinclair-Hegwald Bridge for a ribbon-cutting. Scissors flashed, and the deed was done! Walkers and riders headed off for tours of the trails.
In addition to the official opening of the Lehigh Portland Trails, there were two other exciting announcements:
- Mike Goodwin of the Kansas Trails Council announced that the group was giving the Trail in a Box to Thrive Allen County, permanently, with the hopes that it will become a resource for the entire Southeast Kansas region, and spark a new wave of trail-building projects. “We think of Thrive as the gold standard of the ‘Trail In A Box’ project,” Goodwin said. The “Trail In a Box” is a trailer filled equipment such as brush cutters, chainsaws, McLeods, Pulaskis, and loppers — everything needed to build natural-surface trails … Just Add Volunteers!
- The Sunflower Foundation announced that it has awarded a $30,000 grant to the City of Iola towards construction of the King Of Trails Bridge, a bike/ped bridge that will span Elm Creek at Washington Avenue, providing a more direct connection between residential areas in Iola and the recreational and employment opportunities south of Elm Creek, including the Lehigh Portland Trails.
With the grand opening completed, the Lehigh Portland Trails are now officially open!
Congratulations and thank you to all the countless volunteers who’ve worked so hard on this project over the past two years. You’ve made an extraordinary contribution to your community.
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