A handicap-friendly trail will soon snake along the hillside between Sky Lakes Medical Center and the Oregon Institute of Technology.
The "Geo Trail," so called because it will include educational sign posts about Sky Lakes and Oregon Tech's use of geothermal and solar energy, will connect the two campuses, offering students, staff and residents at nearby Quail Park at Crystal Terrace senior living community easy access to an exercise opportunity.
The project is the work of a partnership between the Sky Lakes, Oregon Tech and the Klamath Trails Alliance.
The trail will help make physical activity more accessible to everyone, said Justin Rodriguez, a volunteer for the project.
"This is very in keeping with the spirit of Blue Zones," Rodriguez said, referencing the community health transformation initiative which is considering working in Klamath Falls.
Because of its location, people nearby won't have to get in their cars to reach the trail, making exercise easier by limiting that barrier, Rodriguez said. There will be a small parking lot near the handicap accessible part of the trail as well, though, he added.
Oregon Tech president Chris Maples said making the trail handicap-accessible was an important part of the project.
In total, the trail will stretch more than 6,000 feet, or more than a mile long, said Sky Lakes Wellness Center program director Katherine Pope. The handicap-friendly portion will be 2,500 feet long.
The flat part of the trail will be accessible for wheelchairs, Rodriguez said. The full trail will make use of an existing road, leading up the hillside to a scenic view of the Oregon Tech campus and Upper Klamath Lake, and down to the Oregon Tech baseball field.
As proposed, part of the trail will be paved with asphalt, and part will be covered with a fine, compacted gravel material approved for ADA use, Rodriguez said. The granular material will be sourced locally and won't get muddy during wetter moths of the year, he said.
The trail will offer a unique, scenic view, which could even attract visitors driving through town, Maples said. The location is an area of natural beauty, he said.
"It's exciting, it really is," Maples said of the trail project.
HOPE FOR A NEW TRAIL SYSTEM
Klamath Trails Alliance member Drew Honzel hopes the trail is the start of even better things to come, such as a trail system throughout the hills behind Oregon Tech and Sky Lakes.
"We've always eyeballed this hillside," Honzel said.
The project's planners are hoping it will make exercise easier for Oregon Tech students and staff, residents at Crystal Terrace, hospital staff and family and friends visiting patients. Residents from Crystal Terrace could more easily walk to Oregon Tech softball and baseball games, for example, Pope said.
"It will be multi-generational" she said.
The trail will largely be funded through an $83,000 grant through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Recreational Trail Program, Pope and Rodriguez said.
The project also represents a collaboration between many groups.
Oregon Tech donated the majority of the land for the trail, the Klamath Trails Alliance will donate the trail maintenance work, the city of Klamath Falls donated some signage and consultation work, and once the project is underway, it will receive donated work and equipment time from Diversified Contractors, and work from the Rhine-Cross Group. "I think it's a great example of community collaboration," Pope said.
The level of "buy-in" from so many groups shows they are not just talking about improving community health, but taking steps to help make it happen, Maples said. It's one thing to talk about change, but actually doing it is another, he said.
"We're really trying to get something done here," Maples said. "That part's really cool to me."
Rodriguez is hoping have the contracts for the trail design complete by August, and to start construction in the fall. Work will likely shut down over the winter, but resume in the spring, and the trail will hopefully be complete by fall 2016, he said.