A 10-foot wide hike/bike trail surrounded by native plants and grasses should meander through East Lawrence neighborhoods filled with residential housing and neighborhood-friendly businesses.
At least, that's the recommendation of a city committee that for a year has been studying how to use an abandoned stretch of railroad that runs through the East Lawrence, Barker and Brook Creek neighborhoods.
"The overall concept is to revitalize the whole region of the city by bringing new energy, imagination, creativity and funding to an area that historically has not been emphasized as an area to interact or enjoy the beauty that exists," said James Grauerholz, a member of the committee.
City commissioners will get their first look at the Burroughs Creek Corridor Plan at their 6:35 p.m. meeting Tuesday. But commissioners already have expressed support for the general idea. Commissioners in October agreed to apply for a federal transportation grant to build the trail, which would run from Hobbs Park near 10th and Delaware streets to Prairie Park near 28th Street Terrace and Harper Street.
But the new plan provides more specifics on what steps the city needs to take. The plan calls for the city to buy the former Lawrence Sale Barn property at 900 E. 11th St., the rail spur property between Maryland and Delaware streets, and two single-family homes at 702 and 710 E. 19th St.
The sale barn site and the two home sites would be used to provide access points for the public to enter the trail, and also could house basic amenities such as parking, bathrooms or picnic areas.
"I'm real anxious to see this trail become a reality," said Lee Zimmerman Sr., who owns the two single-family rental homes at 702 and 710 E. 19th St. and also is a member of the study committee. "I think it would be well-used."
The report also recommends the trail be developed using a landscaping strategy that uses slow-growing, drought-resistant plants that conserve water and reduce yard trimmings.
"We really would like to keep it as a nature corridor, because there are deer and owls and other types of wildlife in the area as well," said Michelle Leininger, a planner in the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Department.
The report doesn't put a specific cost on the trail project, but when the city applied for the federal grant in October, it estimated costs at $1.5 million. If awarded the grant, the city would be responsible for 20 percent of the project, or about $300,000. The city should learn whether it has received the grant in May.
The report also discusses how property should be allowed to develop around the trail. Leininger said the committee agreed it should develop a mix of small-scale residential projects and neighborhood-friendly businesses.
But because of the rail line, which largely was abandoned in 1987, there are several small industrial businesses in the area and several vacant lots that are zoned for industrial uses.
Zimmerman, who is an owner of Zimmerman Steel Co., 701 E. 19th, said the committee made it clear it didn't want to cause current businesses to relocate or change their operations.
But the report does recommend rezoning at least five pieces of property that have industrial zoning but have either residential, retail or office uses.
Businesses on the properties that would be rezoned were mixed about that portion of the plan. At Independence Inc., 2001 Haskell Ave., Tony Peterson, assistant director of operations, said the nonprofit's board hadn't taken a position on the potential rezoning. But Peterson said he believed the rezoning likely would not affect the organization's operations.
Wesley Dalberg, administrator with the Lawrence Salvation Army, said his organization still had unanswered questions about plans to rezone property in the 800 block of Lynn Street that is slated to house a homeless shelter and service center for the Salvation Army.