By Michelle Guffey
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – The harsh summer weather and oppressive humidity abated briefly Friday as more than 100 people gathered at Yettie Polk Park Gazebo in Belton to dedicate the city's new hike and bike trail.
Standing in the gazebo under the shade of a sprawling elm tree, Belton Mayor Jim Covington addressed the crowd, explaining the city's hopes for the Nolan Creek Hike and Bike Trail.
"The trail links several different parks in our city," he said. "We hope to continue on through the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor to the Corps of Engineers park."
Covington said the trail would one day link up to other trails, such as one that is under construction in Killeen.
The 1.5-mile trail follows along Nolan Creek in Belton from Confederate Park near Interstate 35 to a grassy field next to the Mount Zion United Methodist Church near Belton's Harris Community Center, which will be dedicated at the end of the month.
Although not all are finished, the trail features 10 pocket parks positioned along the 1.5 miles. Each pocket park will house 10 Chisholm Trail-themed story boards detailing Belton's history.
"We were very fortunate to receive a grant from TxDOT for $1.7 million," City Manager Sam Listi said.
In 2001, the city submitted a grant to the Texas Department of Transportation for an enhancement grant to fund 80 percent of the trail project. The following year, the city was awarded a $1.7 million grant from TxDOT; Belton contributed $650,000 in local funds.
Jim Reed, with TxDOT, told the crowd that he fell in love with Nolan Creek as the trail was being built because of its natural beauty.
"This a quality of life type of improvement," he said, commenting that trails like these provide family recreation for a community. "It's the centerpiece of your community."
Dwayne Digby, former mayor of Belton, reminisced about his boyhood, when Yettie Polk Park was the place in Belton where families and friends socialized.
Looking out over the crowd of children and adults, Digby said he hoped that the trail would be viewed as an invitation to bring families back here.
Of the Nolan Creek, Digby said he remembered "when it wasn't clean enough to want to put a trail next to. Now, you can go wading in it."
A few yards from the gazebo, children were already down at the creek curiously peering down into the creek bed, watching the water as it rushed over the rocks beneath the bridge.
Down at the trail, each grasping a pair of wire cutters, Listi and Covington snipped the barbed wire – the symbolic ribbon cutting – officially opening the trail.
State Rep. Dianne White Delisi, R-Temple, also attended the dedication.
"What I like about it is it's the right size," she said of the trail. "If I start and walk to Harris High School and back, it's about two miles right alongside the water."
Contact Michelle Guffey at firstname.lastname@example.org