By John Kanelis
Do you want to take a hike? Or ride a bike? How about taking your horse on a ride? Maybe even jog a bit to get your heart started?
Some folks along a 130-mile trail that runs from Farmersville to New Boston have just the place for you to do all of these activities. At least they intend to make it even more suitable for such activity, but it’s going to take some time, some effort and more than just a little bit of money.
The Northeast Texas Trail is considered the longest such “rails to trails” project in Texas and – depending on who you talk to – it is the fourth- or fifth-longest trail in the country.
The trail needs a lot more work, even though sections of it have been improved with hardened surfaces and signage that inform users that motor vehicles are prohibited along the trail.
The NETT’s western trailhead is in Farmersville and its eastern trailhead is in New Boston. The Farmersville portion of the trail includes about five miles from Farmersville to Merit.
Former Farmersville City Councilman John Klostermann is the go-to guy on the western end of the NETT. Klostermann is trying to gin up more community interest in the trail. His ultimate goal? To bring more tourists to the area, to have them spend money and support local business. “It’s the closest point to the Dallas/Fort Worth area,” Klostermann told me, “and if we get it developed, it should bring more people from around the country.”
The NETT once carried rail cars pulled along the line by the Union Pacific and Chaparral railroads. They stopped using the line in the 1990s. The line has been taken over by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the Chaparral Rails to Trails Inc., and the Greater Paris Development Foundation. It runs through seven counties, all of which take part in helping care for the trail; several cities also are involved with the project.
“It’s a jewel in the rough,” according to Bob Mudie, a Quinlan resident who helps care for the section of the trail that runs from Merit to Celeste. Improvement on that section began March 15, and Mudie hopes it will continue “weather permitting.” The region was soaked with a lot of rainfall in February and early March, so the weather quite often inhibits the kind of work required to improve the trail.
Still, Mudie said the contractor has made good on his pledges so far to keep the work on schedule and on budget. “We hope to have it done by September,” Mudie said.
Mudie said the work will include the installation of gates at intersections that he hopes will “slow down ATVs. We’re trying to educate people in Hunt County that they’re not supposed to use the trail with motorized vehicles.”
Mudie is proud of a $200,000 grant he was able to obtain from the Texas Department of Parks & Wildlife, which he said is the maximum amount TP&W awards for these types of projects. The Chaparral Rails-to-Trails organization chipped in $50,000. Mudie figures “that’s a four-to-one bang for your buck. That’s pretty good.”
Mudie and Klostermann share a common goal, which is to use the trail as a lure to increase tourism in Northeast Texas. One way, they figure, is to repurpose a lengthy stretch of abandoned rail line and convert it to a recreational haven for those who are looking for a good bit of peace and quiet.
They will have come to the right place.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.