Tyler Legacy Trails
Tyler Legacy Trail Project
Tyler's city leaders and area trails supporters have worked for years, along with TxDOT, to secure funding for an expanded regional biking and hiking trail system.
On July 12, 2016, the City of Tyler's half-cent sales tax board approved items related to a new Legacy Trails project, which would extend the city’s trail system to Gresham. Clearing of the overgrown right-of-way for the trails phase to Gresham began in January of 2018.
Today, in 2020, Phase I of Legacy Trails is open, starting at Three Lakes Parkway near FRESH by Brookshires, and proceeding south to Gresham, using sections of the old Cotton Belt railroad route along with city-owned right-of-way and utility easements along Old Jacksonville Highway.
The City of Tyler officially opened the trail at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on July 22, 2019.
Another phase involves a trail from Three Lakes Parkway to the southeast, along Dueling Oaks, connecting with the new West Cumberland Road, allowing trail bikers and hikers to reach the Faulkner Park trails.
Future phases will also include the extension of the 10 foot-wide concrete trail from Three Lakes Parkway northward to the trail along West Grande Boulevard.
Map from the City of Tyler showing the planned phases of Legacy Trails
Legacy Trail Along the Tyler to Gresham Cotton Belt Route
Several segments of the rail bed are still visible in 2019.
Part of the route ran from near the current location of FRESH, behind Advantage Self Storage, passed over CR 164 at the entrance to The Crossing, and then continued behind Stewart Funeral Home.
From there it ran along 164 (Maher Road) for a distance south, and continued behind Bruno's Pizza, AAA Grass, What-a-Burger and other businesses in Gresham. The rail line continued on to Flint and Bullard, along a route that is still visible today.
See map below showing the approximate rail line route, from near FRESH south to Gresham.
Map showing the approximate abandoned railroad right-of-way from near FRESH on Old Jacksonville Highway in Tyler south to Gresham, Texas
Photo of the abandoned Cotton Belt railroad right-of-way showing overgrown conditions in Gresham, Texas (February, 2018)
Typical railroad right-of-way condition north of Gresham prior to Legacy Trails construction (February, 2018)
Legacy Trails construction underway near The Crossing in Tyler (February, 2018)
Railroad ties and rails still visible as construction is nearly completed on the Legacy Trails near The Crossing. We wonder why this section was not removed decades ago when the route was abandoned?
(Photo by Staff Writer JFM, February 24, 2019)
Rose Rudman Recreational Trail
Rose Rudman Recreational Trail, Tyler, Texas (TylerTexasOnline staff photo)
The Tyler area offers a number of recreational trails and parks for walking, biking or strolling, located in the center of the city and in outlying areas.
For walking, jogging, biking or roller-blading, Tyler's Rose Rudman Recreational Trail is a perfect "close-in-to-town" venue for a short stroll or a long hike.
It is easily accessible from a number of residential areas, commercial corridors and area hotels.
The trails are also a great spot for picnics, or quiet time, at locations such as Southside Park located just south of the intersection of Shiloh Road and Donnybrook Avenue.
Access to the trails, and parking, is available at numerous locations.
The Tyler trail system currently encompasses four segments:
- Rudman Loop Trail - 1.2 miles
- Southside Trail - 1/2 mile
- Creekside Trail - 3/4 mile
- Grande Trail - 1 3/4 miles
On the northeast segment of the trail is the Tyler Cancer Bell and Pavilion, a place of honor and remembrance for cancer patients, their families, and caregivers.
Other Tyler Area Trails and Resources
South Tyler Trails (TylerTexasOnline staff photo)
Besides the Rose Rudman Trail, other trails are located around town, including Tyler's Faulkner Park and Lindsey Park.
Others can be found at Tyler State Park north of Tyler, offering 13 miles of trails, and at the University of Texas at Tyler.
Tyler Mountain Bike Trails (Courtesy of Elite Bicycles) - Details on the 67-mile Beauty & The Beast route, Tri-Tyler Olympic Course, Lake Hawkins Loop, Fresh Road Race Course, and more.
Brief History of the Rail Line Along Old Jacksonville Highway in Tyler
Map showing the railroad route from Tyler to Jacksonville, Rusk and Lufkin
The Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad Company was chartered in 1880, to connect Tyler with Sabine Pass in Jefferson County. In 1881, the company acquired the property and franchises of the Rusk Transportation Company and its 17 mile line between Rusk and Jacksonville.
Part of the roadbed of this company was utilized by the Kansas and Gulf Short Line during the construction of its line between Tyler and Rusk, which was completed on December 12, 1882.
The remainder of the line, about 44 miles between Rusk and Lufkin, was completed about July 1, 1885, giving the company ninety miles of mainline, narrow gauge tracks between Tyler and Lufkin.
On April 29, 1887, the company was sold to the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway Company.
Both companies entered receivership on May 13, 1889 and were subsequently sold at foreclosure to Louis Fitzgerald.
The Tyler Southeastern Railway Company was chartered on January 12, 1891, to acquire and operate the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad Company, which it converted to standard gauge track by September, 1895.
On July 1, 1899, operations of the Tyler Southeastern were assumed by the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (SSW), known by its nickname of "The Cotton Belt Route" or simply Cotton Belt. The Cotton Belt can trace its beginnings to the Tyler Tap Railroad.
In 1932 the Southern Pacific Lines purchased controlling interest in the Cotton Belt.
Southern Pacific later abandoned the rail line from Tyler south to Gresham, and beyond.