The Connections Trail at Seward County Community College will continue to expand, thanks to a $60,890 grant awarded by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The announcement in late March came at the perfect time, said SCCC President, Dr. Ken Trzaska.
“The collaborative momentum between the college and our community is inspiring, and exactly what Seward has been working to create,” he said. “Through creative thinking and communication with the state, the city, the county, the Liberal Area Coalition for Families, and, quite frankly, the people who live in this community, our focus is to model true partnership.”
One tangible marker of that aspiration is the ongoing planting of new trees along Phases 1 and 2 of the Connections Trail project.
“The goal is to put in 50 new trees on campus every year,” said Trzaska. “Roger Scheib, our Director of Facilities, has his team at work on this year’s batch right now.” In another example of cross-town partnership, the college participated in the Tree Match purchasing program operated by the City of Liberal, ensuring that unclaimed trees did not go unplanted. Scheib listed Bradford Pear, redbud, and other deciduous varieties that will be added to a campus often referred to as “an oasis of green.”
With shade trees and benches installed along Phases 1 and 2 of the Connections Pathway, Trzaska said the Connections Trail system has become more than a sidewalk. Originally designed to link SCCC’s central campus and the Industrial Tech campus, the pedestrian route is now a multi-purpose project.
“Our vision has been to create a connection in the truest sense between our community and SCCC,” Trzaska said. “In the future, we want this to be a destination for families, for community members, something that draws people in.”
SCCC Grant Writer Charity Horinek said the Parks and Wildlife Grant will build on the idea of providing outdoor recreational opportunities.
“This phase of the system will create pathways through the northeast sections of SCCC property, north of the agriculture department to the outdoor classroom area and eastward,” she said. “It’s possible we may put in a variety of surfaces, and we’ve talked about fruit trees and distance markers for community members who want to get exercise, have a picnic, or take their kids and pets on a fun excursion.”
Kansas Department of Wildlife grant coordinator Kathy Pritchett noted that the college should not start work on the project yet, as paperwork and processing must be completed by the state.
“We look forward to working with you toward improving access to trails for all Kansans,” she stated in the award letter.
In the meantime, Scheib and his team will continue planting trees and working on other related projects. These include expanded sidewalk on the west side of campus, and tree plantings around the recently-named French Family Field for women’s softball to the east.
“We’ve got a lot going on across campus,” said Trzaska. “We’re working with the city to plan a walkway across Kansas Avenue to our main entrance, continuing to the site of the Colvin Allied Health Center that will break ground this year. This will give students and community members a safe and easy pedestrian route to the college.”
By the time funds from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism are released, Horinek said, “SCCC will be even more accessible to the community.”
Trzaska can’t wait.
“Just imagine seeing kids come out here to pick apples in the fall, running along the trails,” he said. “It’s going to be great.