City officials would like to improve bicycle and walking trails this year by adding signs and shared lane designations on roadways.

City officials would like to improve bicycle and walking trails this year by adding signs and shared lane designations on roadways.

"This is a crucial service," Gahanna parks and recreation director Tony Collins told the city's planning commission last week. "If we don't improve the quality of life here, we won't be able to continue to provide services."

Collins said companies looking to build are attracted to places with a high quality of life, and bicycle trails are considered as a positive amenity.

He mentioned Dublin's success with bike trails -- more than 96 miles of internal bicycle paths, according to Dublin's Web site.

"It's not a nicety; it's an essential service," he said.

Gahanna updated the city's bikeway master plan in 2009 and determined inexpensive ways to implement some of the plan's ideas. Collins said the city does not have a lot of money to build more trails, which could cost $30 to $40 per linear foot. The city could spend about $5,000 to add signs, which would direct cyclists and pedestrians to trail links and recreational areas.

Gahanna currently has nine miles of multi-use trails. The city's goal this year is to install one new mile of multi-use trail. The city also intends to designate 3.6 miles of shared bicycle lanes on local roadways and to add signs on 26 more miles of shared routes to help make trails more visible for residents. Shared roadways, sometimes called sharrows, usually include a designated bicycle lane on a roadway and signs alerting motorists to the presence of bicycle riders.

The bikeway master-plan update includes a list of new routes to be designated and places where signs should be placed.

Collins said the city would use information from the Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices on signs because it would make the signs recognizable to cyclists and maintain uniform signage with trails outside the city limits.

Planning commission member Jennifer Price praised the plan.

"I think it's so important to the community, for what it will do for the citizens, for their health and the environment," she said. "It's an important benefit for every age."

Collins said the planning commission needs to give approval of the plan update before it goes to Gahanna City Council for a vote. He said he hopes to have all approvals in place by the first week of June so the first phase of sign installation could begin in July.

Gahanna is part of a larger trail network, with part of the Big Walnut Trail running through the city. The trail will extend from Blendon Woods Metro Park to Three Creeks Metro Park in Canal Winchester once completed. The piece in Gahanna will be five miles long and stretch from Morse Road to Pizzurro Park.

In 2009, the city dedicated the first piece of the trail in Gahanna, connecting the existing trail at Creekside and the swim club to Price Road Park.

The second section to be built this year involves extending the trail from Price Road Park to Rocky Fork Drive. It will provide access to more homes and allow the trail to continue moving south to Pizzurro Park, Collins said.

The section is being built with two grants: $250,000 from the Clean Ohio Trail Fund and $150,000 from the Recreational Trail Program through the Federal Highway Administration. Gahanna is providing a $200,000 local match, which already is budgeted, Collins said.