A well-worn dirt trail along the east bank of the Arkansas River will soon be replaced with a wide sidewalk suitable for walking, biking and wheelchairs, city officials said.
The $650,000 pathway will run from the downtown WaterWalk development near Douglas and the river, south to the Lincoln Street Bridge. It will feature a “pause point” along the way with limestone rock benches and decorated with river rock and beds of native wildflowers.
The pathway is expected to be completed next spring.
If all goes according to plan, it will be done in time for use by tourists visiting Wichita for the “March Madness” NCAA basketball tournament, which will hold first-round games at the Intrust Bank Arena, said Scott Wadle, the senior planner who oversees bicycle and pedestrian trails.
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The City Council last week got the final piece of funding to build the new pathway, a $150,000 Recreational Trails Program grant awarded by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
The state money will be in addition to $500,000 from the city’s own capital improvement program.
The path will start just behind the Gander Mountain outdoor products store, near where the city has already installed a boat-launching ramp, said Paul Gunzelman, assistant city engineer.
“There is a well-worn path down there on the east side of the river bank,” Gunzelman said.
The existing packed-earth path, used by walkers and mountain bike riders, has just kind of developed itself over time as residents have walked back and forth along the river bank.
The new path will be paved, 10 feet wide and about a half-mile long, Gunzelman said.
He said it will more or less follow the course of the impromptu path, although it will be located farther up the river bank at some points so it doesn’t flood when the river rises.
In addition to a scenic walk or ride, the new path will give residents easier access to boating, the floating entertainment stage and other recreational amenities that have been built along the river in recent years.