Construction on a paved trail around the lake at Sesquicentennial State Park is another indication of the park’s gradual transformation from rural to urban park.
The rutted, dirt trail hikers have used for decades is being converted into a more accessible paved trail. It’ll be the kind of nature trail that welcomes moms pushing babies in strollers.
The 2-mile trail will follow the same route as the old trail, close enough to the 30-acre lake to allow curious children or anglers easy detours to the water’s edge.
The new trail also will make picnic shelters in the back of the park more accessible to people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers, and it will alleviate erosion problems, said park manager Daniel Gambrell. Heavy rains along with thousands of footsteps each month have worn deep into the gentle slopes leading down to the lake.
People who prefer to hike or bike on dirt trails still will have plenty to choose from at Sesqui. The park also has a 3.5-mile loop trail comprised mostly of sandy roads, a 6.1-mile mountain bike trail and a short nature trail through a wetlands section.
The park was donated to the state in 1937 to mark the Columbia’s 150th birthday. For half a century, it was on a rural section of U.S. 1 several miles from Columbia. But as Northeast Richland has grown the past few decades, the 1,400-acre park has been surrounded by businesses and housing developments.
The bike trail and a dog park are among the many changes at the park that have marked the change in the neighborhood in the past 15 years. The lake drew thousands of revelers in the 1950s and 1960s, but the swimming area was closed a few years ago as people gravitated to pools. As many as 400 people showed up for outdoor movies shown on giant screens this summer, Gambrell said.
The $160,000 paved trail project is being paid for with several years of check-off funds designated for state parks by individual taxpayers. The Richland County Conservation Commission chipped in with money for the new bridge over the lake spillway, which is under construction this week.
The project also includes concrete sidewalks through the main day-use area, which have been completed in the past two weeks. The section around the lake will be surfaced in recycled asphalt, which is slightly easier on the joints than concrete for walkers and runners.
All of the boardwalks and smaller bridges along the old trail also will be replaced. Portions of the trail around the lake will be closed at various stages of construction through late September, Gambrell said.