Denison formalized a long-standing agreement Monday night when it signed a ground lease for trails along Waterloo Lake Regional Park. The trails have been a feature of the park for many years, but some are not formally within the footprint of the park itself, officials said.


Under the agreement, the city will pay Charles and Beverly Harmon $50 for the use of the land for the next year, with the option to renew for up to five years.


“For years — actually longer than any of us have been around — the trails have gone onto private property,” City Manager Jud Rex said.


The agreement previously had been essentially a handshake deal between Denison and the landowners for the use of the trail system, but city officials wanted to formally lease the land. This would allow visitors to the park to use the trails without trespassing and remove the property owners from any liability for injury.


Rex said the desire was spurred by a recent survey of the park and its property boundaries. Denison knew there was some encroachment into neighboring properties, but officials were not certain how far it went in.


The land lease covers two separate parcels of land of about 1.21 acres and 2.90 acres. The lease will include a 15-foot easement that will follow the trails’ property over nearly 8,000 square feet of land.


In addition to protecting the owners and park patrons alike, Rex said the land lease can also be used to improve that portion of the park. If the city finds the need for improvements to the trail system or other infrastructure, Rex said officials will be able to pursue it through the lease.


This comes as Denison has pursued different projects aimed at improving the park and its trails in recent years. In 2013, the city approved a 20-year master plan that detailed more than $20 million in improvements that could be made to Waterloo Lake Park. That made it the only park to have its own plan at the time.


Among the projects Denison has pursued in recent years include improvements to the trail system in the last two years. Last year, the city received more than $200,000 in funding from Texas Parks and Wildlife for trail improvements. When combined with an additional $100,000 in match funding from the city, the project has an estimated budget of about $300,000.


Rex said this funding will not bring any improvements to the portion of trails outside the park’s footprint, but noted that future projects could include it in their scope.