The city of Denison is waiting on funds from a Texas Department of Transportation grant to move forward with development of a new mixed-use trail system, officials recently said week. This comes following the announcement this fall that TxDOT would be supporting the first phase of the Katy Trail project — a proposed four-mile series of trails that will connect to other systems throughout the city of Denison.

“Really, this is going to be the backbone or spine of a greater trail network throughout the city of Denison,” Rex said Thursday.

Rex said the city is waiting for the release of about $911,000 — about 80 percent of costs — in grant funding for the project before it moves forward with planning and development. Rex said he is hopeful that the funds will be released in early 2018, but said he is uncertain when TxDOT will move forward.

The first phase of the project would see the creation of a 12-foot-wide concrete path extending from Day Street to Loy Lake Road, Rex said. The remaining footprint for the path will be partially improved with gravel ahead of future phases of the project. Additional phases would include extensions to Crawford and FM 691, he said.

The ultimate plans for the project will be for it to connect to other trail systems in the city. The system will eventually connect to proposed trails in Gateway Village near the intersection of FM 691 and U.S. Highway 75 and existing trails in Waterloo Lake Park. The trails could also be extended to reach downtown Denison and provide additional connectivity for foot traffic, Rex said.

“Increasingly, people are looking to live in communities that support active living,” Rex said. “For Denison if we want to get people to move here, we need the amenities that they are looking for.”

Rex said the project is currently in its conceptual phase, with additional planning expected to occur once TxDOT has officially given the grant. The city could do planning for the project, but Rex said the grant would not cover this expense retroactively. Thus, it made more financial sense for the city to simply wait, he said.

The proposed path project was first discussed in early 2015 when the city council approved the purchase of former Union Pacific Railroad right of way through Denison. The land will be used as the path for a new water main that will serve southern portions of the city. During the development of the pipeline project, city officials proposed that the route could simultaneously be used as the route for a new trail system.

As the waterline is expected to start at Loy Lake Road, Rex said the city can move forward with that portion of the project ahead of the trail system.

This is the second time that the city has approached TxDOT about funding the project. In 2015, the city applied for a similar grant for the project, but was rejected. Rex said this lead the city to split the project into phases and reapply for the grant earlier this year.

As a part of the design process, Rex said the city will collect public input on the project. During initial planning for the project, neighboring property owners voiced concern about visibility and safety along the route. Rex said the city is considering design features, including lights and other amenities, that could naturally address some of these concerns.