By David Tuma, Publisher
City officials from across the region will travel to Belton to hear a presentation on the Nolan Creek Trail improvements over the past decade. Thursday, at The Gin the City of Belton will host over 60 public officials from various communities. City Manager Sam Listi will give a report on the improvements the community has undergone.
For decades, Nolan Creek was mostly recognized and appreciated for the ferocity with which it has drained a basin that stretches from Fort Hood to Belton along the U.S. 190 corridor. While the drainage capability of the channel during periods of heavy rainfall remains impressive, the serenity that Nolan Creek offers has never been more accessible to the public thanks to two recent City of Belton Creek projects: Nolan Creek Flood Mitigation and Recreation Project and Phase Two of the Nolan Creek Hike & Bike Trail.
During periods of heavy rainfall, Belton residents have been known to gather along the banks of Nolan Creek to gaze upon the speed and power of the swollen waterway and recall former floods in the downtown area. Two of the most notable flooding events occurred in 1913 and 2010. One of Belton’s signature parks, Yettie Polk Park, is named after a mother who perished with four of her children in the 1913 flood. The 2010 flood, a result of the aftermath of Tropical Storm Hermine, didn’t result in any loss of life, but did lead to swift water rescues for several residents and damage to multiple businesses in the downtown area.
The 2010 flood came just four years after a new hike and bike trail was constructed near the Creek. The potential of future flooding to that infrastructure, combined with the threat to businesses and residents, led the Belton City Council to search for a flood mitigation solution.
“There is no reason why you can’t have a beautiful trail. The flood control project downtown has helped with flooding. We track how high Nolan Creek is above Belton and the level it is downtown. It is working. You add the fact that you can see how much use there is of the creek in the downtown area,” said Public Information Officer Paul Romer.
As city staff researched flood mitigation solutions, there was also a desire to make Nolan Creek more accessible. The first phase of the Nolan Creek Hike & Bike Trail brought people to within eyesight of the water, but the Flood Mitigation and Recreation Project would bring people to the water’s edge and invite them to navigate through the channel on a tube or kayak. The $521,000 project received strong community support, including $50,000 donations each from corporate partners H-E-B and CGI Group. In addition, Texas Parks & Wildlife awarded the City a $100,000 grant for the project.
Nolan Creek improvements have created renewed interest in Downtown Belton and brought patrons into the shops and restaurants of local small business owners. Along with the economic impact, the new Creek features have become a popular spot for family and wedding photography.
Facade incentives for Downtown Belton small business owners have led to a resurgence in the redevelopment of the Downtown area. Over 20 locally owned businesses have taken advantage of this 50-50 grant program.
Further improvements to the Nolan Creek trail are planned. A $2.37 million grant was awarded by TxDot last year for further trail extension. City officials are currently working on the planning and design of the project.
Because of the size of the matching grant portion ($500,000) private funds are being raised.
Planning and design should take a year due to the trail having to go under railroad tracks.