Walkers and bikers in Zachary have begun enjoying the new nature trail connecting Americana to the BREC Zachary Community Park. According to District 3 Councilwoman Laura O’Brien, the path opened about three weeks ago.
The two trailheads are located at the pond at the BREC Zachary Community Park located at 20055 Old Scenic Hwy. and the fishing pond next to the dog park in the back of the Americana subdivision. The trail is .66 miles from one trailhead to the other.
The nature path is open to walkers, bike riders, and their canine friends from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. Motorized vehicles of any kind are not allowed.
“I think the best deal is walking from Americana over, going to play with the kids at the park, going to the splash pad and then you can turn around and come back to make an afternoon of it,” said Councilwoman O’Brien.
BREC’s Zachary Community Park features several other amenities, including an outdoor basketball court, dog park, fishing pond, outdoor fitness station, playground, skate park, splash pad, sand volleyball court, recreation center and an outdoor walking track.
A few finishing pieces are slated for the nature trail, including automated gates, additional signage, water fountains and rest areas.
“I think there’s been a very good response [from the community],” O’Brien said. “It gives somebody that’s playing at the park just another opportunity to get out and see something different. You really don’t even know you’re in the city right here.”
This trail is the first in a series of walking trails in the area. Once the west side of Americana is complete, the nature path will continue through that portion of the neighborhood via sidewalks, said Councilwoman O’Brien.
“We’re hoping that the businesses along Hwy. 964 will [put] sidewalk in front, that way we can drive business to them through the trail and then you can walk all the way back around to the wide sidewalk on E. Mount Pleasant. That’s going to be about a two-and-a-half-mile trail,” she added.
The Americana to the BREC Zachary Community Park trail project has been in the works for approximately 16 years, beginning under the helm of former Zachary Mayor Henry Martinez. At the time, the property was being annexed into the city of Zachary in preparation for the Americana development, and the walking trail was one of the main priorities, said Councilwoman O’Brien.
The trail project is funded through the Americana Economic Development District, a taxing mechanism that is funded through a one-cent sales tax throughout the district. Sales tax revenue goes into the fund to take care of projects like walking trails, the roundabout, landscaping on E. Mount Pleasant and street landscaping in Americana, said Councilwoman O’Brien.
“Anything in Americana is taxed a little more. It’s a one-cent tax that goes to the city, and then the city matches that tax, and it goes back into infrastructure and projects that the city otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford,” said Councilwoman O’Brien. “So, we have all of this beautiful greenery, walking trails, and ponds that we self-funded as a community.”
The Zachary Youth Park baseball fields are vital in bringing tourism to the city of Zachary. With increased walkability, visitors are more likely to spend time – and money – at the restaurants and businesses in and around Americana, explained Councilwoman O’Brien. Economic development districts could be pivotal in providing additional self-funded infrastructure projects across the city.
“In my opinion, economic development districts are genius. We should be doing them all over town to self-fund our infrastructure – our roads, fire, police can be included in that. Parks, walkways, that’s how we make things happen.”
The Americana Economic Development District is the only one in the city of Zachary. One was slated for the Walmart area, though it did not come to fruition.
“Hopefully, in the future, we can start developing some of these districts,” said Councilwoman O’Brien. “There’s a neighboring city doing one right now and it’s paying for sewer updates, for roads, for sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes.”