Gekeler Pathway

A lone pathway sits between fields at Eastern Oregon University on Friday, May 7, 2021. La Grande city officials have proposed installing a new path that connects Gekeler Lane and G Street at EOU near Community Stadium.

LA GRANDE — People who walk and bicycle in south La Grande may have a new reason to celebrate several years from now.

The city of La Grande has applied for a $134,595 grant from the state that would fund the planning work needed before starting on corridor projects that would make it possible for people to walk and bike safely and with ease.

The grant would come from the new Oregon Community Paths Program, which is dedicated to helping build off-road walking and biking paths that connect communities and destinations. House Bill 2017, known as Keep Oregon Moving, funds the Oregon Department of Transportation program.

A total of $11.3 million is available via OCP in 2021. The Oregon Transportation Commission on Thursday, May 13, will review the applications it received and make recommendations regarding which projects the state should fund.

La Grande Public Works Director Kyle Carpenter said the Oregon Department of Transportation’s recommendation likely will determine if La Grande receives the grant.

Should La Grande get the planning grant, the city would look at projects that would help make it easier for walkers and bikers to get from Eastern Oregon University to Gekeler Lane, a popular exercise route because of its paved pathways and sidewalks.

Carpenter noted people on EOU’s campus have to use 12th or Sixth streets to reach Gekeler Lane. Building an asphalt pathway from G Avenue through Eastern’s campus to Gekeler Lane, for example, would make this much easier and safer.

Another option the city might consider would be making it safer for La Grande School District students who live east of the university to walk or bike through its campus while traveling to and from La Grande Middle School, La Grande High School and Central Elementary School.

Presently, the routes children walk and bike on through Eastern’s campus are not as safe as they could be because of traffic. La Grande students need a designated route, Carpenter said, and such a route could involve a paved pathway through campus.

Carpenter also said, if the city receives the grant, he hopes to look into ways of helping people on EOU’s campus to more easily walk or bike into downtown La Grande.

“We would like to create some type of a corridor,” Carpenter said. “We want to add continuity from Eastern to downtown.”

Steps to achieve this could involve making use of right-of-way property between EOU and downtown La Grande.

“We would like to create walking and biking opportunities separated from vehicles,” Carpenter said.

He said the city would hire a consultant to look into such options if the Oregon Community Path program grant comes through. Once the city has a plan, it would be able to apply for construction grants from the Oregon Community Path program or other sources.

Carpenter said he is optimistic about the potential for creating corridors via OCP. He said the opportunities the grant could provide are exciting and such additions would address a need he often hears people discuss.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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