A 5 1/2-mile route on an old railroad route through the southern part of Tyler is available for walking, running and biking.

The city of Tyler held a grand opening for the Legacy Trails, the beginning portion of a regional trail system that starts near Fresh by Brookshire’s on Three Lakes Parkway and ends behind Dairy Queen in Gresham.

The project, which is part of a plan laid out in 2010 to build more trails in the city, was funded largely through the Texas Department of Transportation and with the remainder from the city’s half-percent sales tax.

The east-west portion of the trail has been open for about a year, and the concrete on the north-south trail has been usable for months. Monday night was a ceremonial opening that drew dozens of walkers, runners and cyclists.

“We’re so excited about the new trail,” said Bill Lewis, the president of the Tyler Bicycle Club. He and others in the club attended a ceremony in a pavilion at the corner of Three Lakes Parkway and Old Jacksonville Highway for an inaugural bike ride.

“You can start at Rose Rudman, and you can ride your bicycle all the way to Grande, through Hollytree … and get all the way to Gresham,” Lewis said. He said that is a significant distance to be able to travel, and cyclists will experience only one traffic light.

The trails run along abandoned railroad right-of-way. They are 10-foot-wide concrete trails. There are water fountains at the northernmost and southernmost trailheads.

Signs are situated along the route, marking every quarter-mile. It’s a 2 3/4-mile route at the farthest points, and going out-and-back can yield a 5 1/2-mile run or ride.

The route goes south from Three Lakes Parkway, through the woods, and goes by The Crossing subdivision. The trail goes east near Oak Creek’s athletic club, south on Old Jacksonville Highway by Bruno’s, and passes under Toll 49. The trail ends behind Dairy Queen in Gresham.

A shorter trail can be picked up at the Three Lakes Parkway trailhead, then runs south on Old Jacksonville Highway, crosses east at Dueling Oaks Drive, and ends at Cumberland Road.

The city is seeking to extend the mileage even further. City staff plan to put in another application with the Texas Department of Transportation for a Safe Routes to School grant. The Tyler City Council will consider a resolution in support of the grant on Wednesday.

The extension would start near the Home Depot on Old Jacksonville Highway, go past Griffin Elementary School on North Broadway Avenue, and end at the Tyler Rose Garden Center on Front Street, according to Stephanie Franklin, a managing director for the city.

Franklin said the city has been working on its plans for parks and open space. She said people want trails, and they can help with everything from exercising, walking to the grocery store, and offering an alternative means of transportation.

Franklin said the Legacy Trails are the first ones outside the city limits. (Smith County has agreed to provide some maintenance of the trails outside the city limits.) She said the goal is to get the trail all the way to Bullard and have a partnership with that city.

City Councilwoman Linda Sellers, who represents most areas between South Broadway Avenue and Old Jacksonville Highway, wore her running shoes to the opening to celebrate. She said the trailhead starts in Councilman Broderick McGee’s district, and is happy for both areas of the city.

Mayor Martin Heines told the story of how the Legacy Trails project came about. He said the idea dates back to a time when the city set aside money to connect a trail with Faulkner Park.

He said it turned out to be a good thing that the earlier plan didn’t work out, because it led to the bigger Legacy Trails project, and the proposed extension up to the Rose Garden.

“It is a big beginning, but it is a beginning to really expand our trails,” Heines said.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

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