Paola Pathways is full steam ahead

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

By Brian McCauley

When members of a trails task force first met in November 2011, they knew they wanted to construct a series of trails throughout Paola, but they lacked a complete plan and funding to reach their goals.

Now, after 20 months of meetings, fundraising and marketing, those same members are ready to turn their vision of a trails system into a reality.

City officials recently announced that Paola received a matching grant from the Sunflower Foundation that will allow for the construction of trails at Wallace Park, which is the first phase of the city’s master trails plan.

Paola was one of the seven communities and one school district to receive a portion of the more than $200,000 approved by the Sunflower Foundation’s Board of Trustees at their June board meeting.

“We are pleased to welcome these communities into the growing Sunflower Trails family,” said Billie Hall, president and CEO of the Sunflower Foundation. “Each grant reflects strong community and grassroots planning and support.”

The $24,000 grant for Paola joins $33,000 in cash donations from more than 80 giving units and $18,000 in pledges, for a total of $75,000 raised by the local task force, according to numbers provided by Paola Planning Director Mike Gotfredson, who worked on the grant application.

“It was amazing to see the donations pouring in each day while I was writing the grant,” Gotfredson said. “It shows why Paola is such a great place to live and work. It created a pleasant problem of having to rewrite the application to fully use our unexpected level of support.”

According to a timeline released by the task force, groundbreaking on the trails at Wallace Park is scheduled to take place during a chamber coffee Sept. 13. All 3.5 miles of trails at the park are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The first section of trail will loop around Rock Stadium and the soccer fields south of the Miami County Fairgrounds in Wallace Park. There will eventually be three trail-heads in Wallace Park that will each feature a kiosk and a patio of brick pavers. The trails will be 8 feet wide, and they will be made out of limestone screenings.

Although the task force members are excited about the start of the first phase, they also are staying focused on the next phases, which include plans to construct trails around Lake Miola as close to the water as possible and working to add bike lanes along existing roads in Wallace Park and other areas.

Fundraising will again be a top priority for the next phases, and local residents can help out by attending a special presentation of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown,” on Oct. 5 at the Paola Community Center. Paola High School theater students will perform during the dinner theater, and the proceeds will benefit the trail system construction fund.

Task force member Peg Wieland said she is excited about the grant, and she’s looking forward to even more progress on the trails in the future.

“The Paola City Council is to be commended for organizing a citizen-based task force to launch this project,” Wieland said. “It consists of a diverse group of dedicated individuals from all walks of life who have selflessly given their time over the last two years to bring this community resource to life. We are all extremely grateful for the enthusiastic support these businesses and individuals have shown for Phase I and look forward to adding more Pathway partners as we continue our plan to connect our community with safe trails and lanes.”

Funds needed to kick off city trails project
By Brian McCauley | Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:00 am

The Paola Pathways task force recently announced it is launching a communitywide campaign to enhance fundraising efforts to start building the first phase of a pedestrian/bicycle trail system in Paola.

In April, the task force will be applying for a 50/50 matching grant from the Sunflower Foundation to help fund the inaugural trail in Wallace Park. The amount that can be requested depends on the total the group has raised, according to a news release.

The group already has received $1,000 from the transient guest tax fund and $2,500 from a corporate sponsorship from Miami County Medical Center, but task force members know more is needed to make the trail system a reality. The task force is calling on businesses and residents to support the community project by helping raise an additional $5,000 by April 30.

“The Sunflower Foundation’s matching grant would provide the funds to complete the first mile of trail, as well as the trail-head kiosk,” said Jim Pritchard, task force chairperson. “With the help and support of the community, we can exceed our goal and be on the way to building a safe and convenient web of trails that will connect our community.”

The first section of trail will loop around Rock Stadium and the soccer fields south of the Miami County Fairgrounds in Wallace Park. The city of Paola provided in-kind contributions of equipment and labor by having the city’s public works department crew clear underbrush for the 8-foot wide path along Bull Creek this winter. Ground will not be broken until enough money is raised to purchase the limestone base material, according to the release.

“According to common pedometer readings, the average person takes 2,000 steps per mile,” the release states. “Public Works Director Craig Browning, who is coordinating construction, estimates that the limestone screenings will cost about $10,000 for every mile of trail. That equates to $5 per step.”

There will eventually be three trail-heads in Wallace Park that will each feature a kiosk and a patio of brick pavers. In order to stimulate donations, those contributing $50 or more can order a personalized paver with individual names, place of business or in memory of a loved one engraved on it, according to the release.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made to the city of Paola (include Paola Pathways in the memo notation of a check). Donations should be dropped off or mailed to Paola City Hall at 19 E. Peoria St.

Those interested in learning more about the trail system can visit and click on the Paola Pathways link.