Improvements to a two-mile walking and biking path running through downtown Gilbert along a major power line from Cooper to Lindsay roads are nearing completion.
Town officials and local business owners say the upgrades to the Western Powerline Trail will add to the small downtown’s ambiance and boost pedestrian traffic and business. The path connects with a network of trails that run throughout Maricopa County that were constructed by the U.S. Reclamation Service in 1911 to service the Western Canal. The improvements cost $5.1 million, partly paid for by a federal grant of $312,000, officials said.
The trail runs parallel to the canal on the north end of downtown.
Including open space for public use is an important ingredient in good development, and the trail accomplishes that, said Dan Henderson, Gilbert’s business development manager.
“It’s pretty unique in a downtown area,” he said.
The improved version of the Gilbert portion of the trail will include landscaping, plazas, fountains and displays with photographs and narratives of Gilbert’s agricultural history and pioneers.
The town approved the project in 2006 after holding public meetings. Gilbert spokesman Garin Groff said the trail will create a new, more welcoming gateway to downtown, which Gilbert dubbed its Heritage District.
Officials haven’t identified a specific completion date, but Groff said it would open sometime early this year.
It features several water features with quotes by famous individuals etched into the masonry. One quote by American poet W.H. Auden reads, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”
A fountain features spouts that spray water into metal crescent-shaped gullies and finally into the pool below.
Jen Driesbach, a manager at the newly opened Liberty Market restaurant and store, which is less than half a mile from the trail at Gilbert Road and Page Avenue, expects the path will bring more customers.
“I would absolutely hope so — that it would draw people in,” she said. “Gilbert has a lot to offer.”
Fran Rainey, a manager at Oregano’s Pizza Bistro on Gilbert Road between Page and Vaughn Avenue, said he noticed ongoing work at the crosswalk where the path crosses the road, but wasn’t aware that it was for the trail.
“That should be very interesting,” he said. “It definitely should bring a little more people down this way.”