Community members are bonding in an ongoing development project called the Cedar Creek Waterway project to create new recreational parks and keep a natural creek running through Abilene.
Cedar Creek, a creek that runs through Abilene, connects multiple parks throughout Abilene, such as Will Hair Park and Kyle Young Park.
Jim Cooke, environmental science professor and supporter of the movement, said this project, once completed, will change people’s vision of the town.
People see Abilene as a hot, dry, brown, dusty and forbidden place, but the Cedar Creek Waterway will create a place where people can enjoy wildlife, trees and shade, Cooke said.
Over the years, multiple volunteers have come together to clean up debris from stretches of the creek, which travels 15 miles between Lake Kirby and Lake Fort Phantom.
ACU students joined to help clean an auto junk yard that was on the creek’s banks in February.
Since then, the project has made even more progress, Cooke said.
“We’ve purchased some signage that shows where the trail is so you can follow the trail along the creek,” he said.
The trail, which extends from South 7th Street to North 10th Street, is envisioned as being a place where citizens of Abilene can hike and bike next to a flowing creek of water.
Cooke said another goal for the creek is to keep water in Abilene because it is frequently in a drought.
“The overall plan is to put a series of four-foot dams in the creek every mile so that when we have a rain event, the water fills up behind the dams and there’s water in the creek bed,” Cooke said.
Cooke said in September, the city will begin releasing water from Lake Kirby into Cedar Creek to add to the flow. He said eventually the flow of the creek will resemble a man-made aquarium pump.
“We pump water out of Lake Fort Phantom, so it goes through us,” Cooke said. “It goes through the sewer system, it’s treated and it’s let into Lake Kirby. It’s let out of Lake Kirby back into the creek and then we pump out of Lake Fort Phantom and we treat it for drinking water.”
Randy Barnett, one of the project’s organizers, said much of the progress is at a standstill at the moment as they attempt to get permission from the Union Pacific Railroad to build on their property.
Barnett said the city of Abilene is having a bond election, and a representative of the project was invited to tell his story at the election. He also said they have hired Hargreaves Associates, a landscape and waterfront design company that designed land for the London Olympics, to help them design the oasis.
“You can’t see the progress at the moment, but we are slowly making it,” Barnett said.
Cooke said in October there will be an event where ACU students can volunteer to help with the project by cleaning up a recently purchased stretch of land that was previously a homeless camp area.