On Thursday, June 20, the cities of Highland and Redlands held the third in a series of public meetings aimed at collecting public input and citizen support for the Highland Redlands Regional Connector Trail for bicyclists and pedestrians, support project leaders say is vital to winning additional grants needed to widen the project’s scope to more than a basic commuter system.

Thursday’s meeting, held at the Redlands Senior Center, was the first in Redlands, and it drew the attendance of approximately 20 people, about half of them recreational cyclists. The first two meetings were held at Beattie Middle School and Arroyo Verde Elementary in Highland and drew a total of 45 attendees, according to Dennis Barton, principal project manager for city of Highland.

The project, four years in the making, aims to connect the extensive bikeways and trails systems in each of the cities by constructing a trail crossing the Santa Ana River at Orange Street.

While outlining the project’s design and status, Highland City Engineer Ernest Wong shared that approximately $4 million in federal and state funding has been obtained for the project. Most of that, $3.6 million came from an Active Transportation Program grant awarded in October 2015.

The project will create a continuous bikeway/walkway from Arroyo Verde Elementary at Church and Love streets in Highland to Citrus Valley High School at Pioneer and Texas streets in Redlands. It will feature class 2 bikeways (painted bike lane) on Glenheather Drive and on Orange Street from Tonner Drive south to Greenspot Road. The majority of the trail — Orange Street south of Greenspot to Domestic Avenue and on Domestic west to Citrus Valley — will feature a class 1 bikeway and pedestrian trails, separated from vehicle traffic.

Arroyo Verde Elementary, Beattie Middle School, Israel Beal Park and Citrus Valley High School will be the major designations making biking to work and school safer and more convenient. City leaders are hoping it will entice Redlands residents to explore Highland and vise versa while recreational riding.

The trail will also connect to the Santa Ana River trail allowing cyclists and hikers to explore as far west as the sea.

One of the main, and most expensive, features is a pedestrian bridge crossing Plunge Creek along the east side of Orange Street bridge. The prefabricated bridge is expected to cost up to $1 million and will be installed with enough separation to allow for future widening of the vehicle bridge.

The bicyclists in attendance expressed strong support for the project saying it was vital from a bicyclists’ safety point of view as the area offers no ideal route for cyclists to traverse north and south of the river.