LINDSBORG ‒ As we prepare to change seasons, City Hall prepares to help spring make the turn. Construction of the $1 million Välkommen Trail extension in north Lindsborg will begin April 1, reports Gary Shogren, Director of Community Development. At a recent meeting he listened to estimates that with no weather delays, the project could be finished in midJuly. “I don’t believe that timeframe is a realistic goal,” Shogren said in a memo March 8, “and I also don’t want to see a spring season without a drop of rain, so let’s hope for a walkable trail in mid to late summer.” A spring without rain? We’ve had several in recent years and they’re no fun – hyacinth poking up through cracks in the dirt, jonquils gasping, tulips dusty and unhappy, Bethany visitors at Swensson fountain, longing for a straw.
Gary is right about rain. It keeps a place nourished, its people pleasant, the landscape sated and rewarding. The Trail extension project was noted here a year ago, but it experienced the kind of other-world delays and entanglements that can afflict a public project these days. The Trail at last moves on in northeast Lindsborg, in a triangular 1¼ -mile route, roughly from Bethany College to the Emerald Lake subdivision and back. It adds to the popular 1½-mile trail that opened in 2006. The extension will angle northeast from the current north trailhead near the College to the north tip of the lake. The southern part of the Trail extension – the base of the triangle – is eastward along Swensson Street, then a jog north along a line just west of the subdivision. The current Trail runs north and south through Lindsborg in two connected routes, winding along grassy slopes and tree lines. There are resting areas with bike racks, lighting, shaded benches, and along the way are small plots and garden shrines that people have cultivated. The Trail itself is a concrete boulevard ten-feet wide, convenient for walker, runner, stroller or cyclist. The extension will be built in the same way. The current Trail, a $1.5 million project, was incubated on Dec.28, 2000, when the City filed a request for a trail permit with the federal Surface Transportation Board, the chief regulatory agency for railroads.
The Trail was to be built on abandoned rail beds of the Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. Then followed a long stretch of wagering and haggling with the railroads, and countless planning sessions among City officials and local interests. Construction began in early March, 2006, with the opening ceremony on a muggy Saturday morning, July 29. Even then, with landscaping not quite finished, the project was thrilling. The Trail’s bridge over the Smoky Hill River has become iconic, a tourist Mecca and photographer’s magnet. We hope the trail’s extension will at some point be blessed with more markers from the Smoky Valley Historical Association. A year after the original Trail opened, the Association installed the first of its popular 2 x 3-feet signs along way, placing them at special, significant places. The first two, unveiled in late May 2007, mark the sites of the former Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific Railroad depots. The railroads built the city, helped it to prosper; it follows that they be remembered. Another two dozen signs have gone up along the Trail, commemorating the significant events, memorable institutions and important people who gave footing to Lindsborg and the Smoky Valley. Each sign has been sponsored by a local business or individual donors. It is hoped that more will enliven the Trail. Those historical markers are an affectionate, anecdotal chronicling of more than a century in Lindsborg and the Smoky Valley. They are the living enterprise of men and women who want us to know how we have lived and died, prospered, perished, or simply existed by nature’s quirky authority. With an extension of this Trail, it is difficult not to imagine more of them.