Sunday, August 24, 2008

An Early Look at the Turner Boulevard Trail

As part of the new Omaha Bikeway, a multi-use sidewalk trail has been poured from Turner Boulevard at Pacific running to Farnam Street. This scenic greenway will provide cyclists and pedestrians easy access between Woolworth Ave., Leavenworth St., and Farnam St, all the way to the Midtown Crossing district. With easy access to the upcoming Woolworth Bicycle Boulevard and proximity to the Field Club Trail, the Turner Boulevard trail will help cyclists coming from the southwest get downtown by way of Leavenworth St.

This morning Roxanne and I rode the trail from end to end to get an early peek at the newly poured trail, as well as to snap some photos to share. When I first started riding this direction to and from work a couple of weeks ago, crews were still pouring the cement paths along the switchbacks at the top of the trail near Pacific St. At this time, it appears all of the cement work is done, all of the paving stones are in place, and the retaining walls are installed. All that remains is for the landscaping and grass to fill in the dirt areas. Please note that there is still a thin covering of dirt on many sections of the trail, so be careful after a rain, as this could turn into a slippery layer of mud.

While Turner Boulevard starts on the south at Woolworth Avenue in the historic Field Club district, the Turner Boulevard trail doesn't seem to begin until two blocks to the north at Pacific Street. I noticed at this point that the wide multi-use sidewalk extends to the west toward 36th Street. I don't know if the official start of the trail is at 36th and Pacific, or if the path is a spur that connects to the Field Club Trail at Pacific Street.

Once you start on the path at Turner Boulevard and Pacific Street, you'll notice that you're at the stop of a switchback that runs along newly landscaped terrain and a brand new retaining wall. The switchback is nice in that it allows a slow and controlled descent through the area until you reach the bottom near Mason Street at Leavenworth Park. The switchback is especially nice when climbing the hill. There even seems to be some sort of gravity vortex that makes it an easier climb than you'd expect. I'm sure it's an accidental optical illusion with the landscaping. Watch for a future post on this.

About halfway down look to the left for a crosswalk (shown from the opposite direction in this photo) that will get you across the street where you'll pick up the path again. Now you'll cruise past a set of three fire hydrants (not sure why so many are placed together) and cross the street again. Another half-block and you'll cross Mason Street and be riding along Leavenworth Park.

Once you've crossed Leavenworth Street, you'll continue on downhill toward the north, crossing the street a couple of times. The next place of interest in Dewey Park. This park is configured for tennis players, with nine courts and two three-walled courts where one could practice alone. There's also a children's playground here and an Omaha Fire Department training facility.

They also installed a new bike rack at the park.

Continuing north, you'll cross Harney Street (site of the historic First Unitarian Church of Omaha), and further still at Farnam Street, you can go no further, as Turner Park has been closed while the construction of Midtown Crossing is in progress. With condos and apartments, shopping, dining, entertainment and a community focused atmosphere, Midtown Crossing may prove to be a cycling destination when it's complete in Fall 2009.

In summary, the Turner Boulevard greenway trail may help some commuters get closer to downtown. Its relatively short run with multiple street crossings won't be of much use for fitness purposes, but I'm imagining when all of the landscaping is done and Midtown Crossing development complete, that it will be a pleasant, scenic route that actually goes somewhere.


Scott Redd said...

An update:

Monday, September 1, we saw a contractor applying a stain to the retaining wall blocks, making them more of an earth-tone color, verses the white cement look of the blocks.

Later that week I noticed that a black plastic coated chain link fence at the top of the switchback was erected.

Today I saw that some plantscaping has been done. Little bushes and a bed of mulch are running along the top of the switchback in the terraced areas of the retaining walls.

This will certainly be a true greenway next spring. Watch this blog for pictures at that time.

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