Salina residents braved the chilly weekend weather at the Salina YMCA, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the inauguration of the new YMCA trail as a part of the Smoky Hill River Renewal Project.
Angie Lassley, with the YMCA, expressed the community's excitement, saying, "We have been talking about this for a long time. This trail will connect our neighborhoods in ways that have never been before. We're excited to bring our YMCA kids, whether it's preschool, elementary or family, and taking them Downtown in a much safer way. To walk the community and be a part of their education of how we take care of our rivers and land. We're also dreaming about having kayaking and canoeing rental programs, to make sure our kids and families have lifelong access to healthy lives."
Jane Anderson, with the Friends of the River Foundation, expressed gratitude to the Salina citizens who voted for the sales tax, making the river project a reality. She stated, "The Friends of the River Foundation wants to say thanks to those Salina citizens who voted for the sales tax, to make the River Project go from a dream into a reality. This trail is the first construction project of many to come in the near future."
Dan Stack, City Engineer, recounted the trail's history, saying, "The City of Salina is excited to be a part of this. It actually started many years ago, and in 2012 it was a pretty rustic trail with a narrow path. We did a lot of Fall and Spring cleanups back here, trying to keep it open enough just to walk back here. The trail is 1/2 a mile, one way, and next year's hopeful project is the next 900 feet to Ohio St."
Martha Tasker, City of Salina Utilities Director, provided insight into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' ecosystem restoration project, which has been in progress for the past 5-6 years. Tasker explained, "The US Army Corps of Engineers Ecosystem Restoration Project has been being worked on for 5-6 years. It's a project that will correct when the Channel was bypassed, and all the sediment settled and killed off the ecosystem. The project will restore the flow, habitat and recreational opportunities in the 6.8 miles of River Channel. The proposed schedule is to complete a feasibility study in 2024-26, with construction in 2027-30. The second project is with the US Department of Transportation that covers transportation and safety. This include trails, bridges, and even replacing a wooden wall by the water treatment plant. It's going to spur economic development, create jobs, and improve the safety in Downtown and at crossings and railroad tracks."
Vice Mayor Bill Longbine expressed gratitude to fellow commissioners and the citizens of Salina for their unwavering support. He emphasized the collaborative nature of the project, saying, "This marks the beginning of a strong public-private partnership between the Friends of the River, the City of Salina, and its citizens. It's the first of many miles of pathways that will connect and strengthen Salina as we move forward. The trail system will nurture a healthier, more vibrant community, providing a space for friends and family to come together and embrace nature within the city."