LETTERS: Reader says recreational trail could be a boon for the local community

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN STAN THIESSEN – HILLSBORO
It was surprising to hear the Hillsboro City Council reaffirm their support of the farmers in opposition to the Central Kansas Conservancy (CKC) while other, larger communities along the trail are now endorsing the trail or considering the economic potential and recreational advantages of the trail.



Lindsborg and Marion chose to improve the quality of life in their community and provide another safe avenue to exercise and enjoy leisure time along their portion of the rail trail. The same issues are currently being discussed by McPherson City Commission and the McPherson County Commission.



These communities recognize public safety as a major issue in their endorsements. When you think about it, Hillsboro has more to gain than the other communities that have already endorsed the trail.



Hillsboro is known for the number of residents who walk, bike, jog and meet friends on the street. Our community would benefit from a safer place to exercise and the trail would be centrally located so that more residents could participate in healthy recreation.



Other central Kansas trail communities like Marion and Lindsborg also see the economic potential that goes beyond the recreational parks, industrial parks and housing developments. It’s an economic development issue even if it begins and ends at the city limits.



Other communities are finding volunteers to help organize their local trail plans, and they are applying for and receiving funds to develop the trail and adjacent attractions through grants like TEA-21.



Volunteerism-or the lack of-seems to be an issue in Hillsboro. Last week’s Free Press carried an article soliciting volunteers to serve on city boards like Convention & Visitors Bureau, Recreation Commission or Tree Board. In the article, the mayor seems to be pleading for volunteers to serve on the city boards.



These boards are important, but the council’s message in reaffirming the farmers opposition to the trail seems to suggest that city leaders view the boards as mere puppets. If volunteerism is as important as the mayor suggested, it seems the city would encourage these valuable boards to study the trail issues and make recommendations before the council takes action.



Safe, healthy, fun, adventuresome ways to enjoy recreation, meet other people and help the local economy merit consideration-especially when grants are available to assist with the development.



Other towns along the Meadowlark and Santa Fe spurs of the CKC recognize the merit of the trails and are seizing the opportunities.



Trail opponents notoriously hold sway in small communities by threatening to boycott local businesses. Fear is a controlling factor, but these kind of boycotts are proven to be self-defeating. As it turns out, farmers depend on the local community as much as the community depends on the farmers. The same holds true for city leaders.



Trail opponents can’t stop those who wish to meet locally to develop positive trail plans for their community, with or without the support of their community leaders. It’s time for local trail supporters to meet and begin developing a positive trail plan for Hillsboro.

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