The initiative to develop Cedar Creek Waterway reached a crucial point in its future.
The City of Abilene Bond Advisory Committee approved the $1.4 million proposal to upgrade the waterway connecting Kirby Lake on the south side of Abilene to Fort Phantom Hill Lake north of the city. And on Thursday, the Abilene City Council approved the project as part of a $80.6 million bond issue that would improve roads, sidewalks and other city facilities. Those approvals mean Abilene residents will vote on the proposal at the city bond election May 9.
Dr. Jim Cooke, professor of environmental science, assists in the organization of the project and said he thinks Abilene will benefit from voting for the proposal.
“This project is a great project from the standpoint of improving the quality of life for the residents in the city of Abilene,” Cooke said.
The proposal would fund the first phase of the venture, developing Cedar Creek from South 11th Street to North 10th Street.
If the bond proposal passes, the city would begin selling bonds and raising money to support the venture, and taxes would likely increase for citizens of Abilene.
But Cook said he thinks this is something that would be worth it in the long run.
“I just hope people won’t disregard it out of hand just because it means higher taxes,” he said. “The amount it would raise an individual’s tax is relatively insignificant to the benefit the project would have on the citizens.”
Abilene entrepreneur Randall Barnett serves as chair of the Cedar Creek Waterway Non-Profit and said the vision for the project goes far beyond simply cleaning up the waterway. The opportunity for recreation and business along the creek would increase greatly.
“These changes wouldn’t happen overnight,” Barnett said. “But over time, we could see the creation of coffee shops, restaurants, parks and even things like places for bands to play.”
The plan involves creating biking and hiking trails along the entire length of the waterway between the two lakes.
The City of Abilene already owns about 80 percent of the land that would be involved in the project. The $1.4 million would go toward purchasing the rest of the land as well as to paying for necessary construction and projects along the waterway.
Cooke said the money would be enough to build three dams along the creek to control water flow, trailheads and trail markers for the paths, picnic areas and restrooms, among other expenses.
Cedar Creek runs about half a mile west of campus, and the trails would be easily accessible for students.
Connor Osburn, senior finance major from Southlake, lives next to the creek and said he has spent time exploring the wooded areas around it and canoeing along it. He said he thinks students should get involved because the opportunities would be great.
“Initially, I was appalled at the buildup of trash and general lack of care that was apparent in and along the waterway,” Osburn said. “But I think this could be a popular destination for ACU students, especially those who enjoy jogging, biking or kayaking as well as the greater Abilene community.”
Osburn said the waterway project would be worth the investment.
“I fully support the project,” Osburn said. “Any project that gives people the opportunity to spend quality time outdoors while at the same time helping people learn the value of the green spaces in their city is certainly worth pursuing.”
Cooke said the approval of the proposal could lead to an exciting future for Abilene.
“People think of Abilene as a hot and dry and dusty place,” Cooke said. “But if you go to Cedar Creek, you find it’s not. It’s very different, and that’s the value of it.”