Allen County trail system expands

IOLA, Kan.– There’s good news for lovers of the outdoors, biking and walking trails in Southeast Kansas are expanding.

Last week, Thrive Allen County celebrated the newest trail, at Allen Community College.

“This wraps into more than 60 miles of trails and routes that we now have here in Allen County,” said Lisse Regehr, President, and CEO of Thrive Allen County. “And to have the students here be able to be that better connected within our community we’re just really excited to be able to do that.”

Now, the trail system in Allen County is connecting students and staff to over sixty miles of trails.

John Masterson, President of Allen Community College said he hopes this will help students have access to healthier lifestyles, and can go hand in hand with their bike-sharing program.

“The bike-share program has been fantastic. For our students that don’t have cars…make really good use of them, not just for recreation, but to go to Walmart, go downtown, shopping. But it’s just it’s fun to do things for our community and open up our college and get people out here,” he said.

John Leahy, Bike and Trails coordinator for Thrive said that the trails will expand, from Iola to Fort Scott, and to Pittsburg by September, and will be called the “Prarie Pathways”.

Leahy added that this expansion could help bridge gaps between Southeast Kansas communities, which are spread out.

“Our goal is to increase accessibility to anyone who wants access to recreation or transportation. We find that specifically out here, there are a lot of recreational users and on the Prairie Spirit and South Wind we get a lot of transportation users getting to and from businesses.”

People use these trails for a variety of reasons, but the most significant goal Thrive Allen County has for them is to improve the health of the community.

“So we’ve really seen a large variety of why people use the trails and how much healthier they have helped make our community,” Regehr said.

Building on the idea of health, the next trail will be at the local hospital, for patients and staff to use as desired.

“We are currently building a trail just north of here at the hospital, and that will also include a healing garden. And so we are really excited because we know that we’ll be able to both assist patients who are at the hospital, but also community members who love to go eat lunch there and then can walk the trail and get healthier that way,” Regehr said.

All trails are free and open to the public.

For a list of trails in Allen County, click here.