Nestled in the piney hills of Lincoln Parish in Northeast Louisiana, the City of Ruston with a population of more than 22,000 is a small college town with big plans. Anchored by Louisiana Tech University, a National Tier 1 school with more than 12,500 students, Ruston is investing in its future. In April, Ruston voters approved a three-quarter cent sales tax to fund an $80 million master plan to upgrade and maintain its infrastructure and to enhance the quality of life for its residents.
As part of its Moving Ruston Forward initiative, the City plans to spend an estimated $1 million to develop biking and running trails through the city. The initiative got a big boost from PeopleForBikes, which awarded a $10,000 grant to Ruston to redevelop a former railroad right-a-way into a hiking and biking greenway. Similar projects elsewhere have proven transformational.
Selected from 205 applicants, the Rock Island Greenway project is a shared-use walking, running and bicycling path and linear park, spanning almost 6 miles across Ruston and connecting businesses, Louisiana Tech University, residential areas and recreational amenities.
“We are thrilled to receive this funding from PeopleForBikes and for their recognition of this project,” said Mayor Ronny Walker. “The grant validates the value of this project. The Rock Island Greenway will help to make Ruston a safer, healthier, and more appealing place to live for people of all ages and abilities for generations to come.”
The city broke ground on the path in December and expects the first phase of the project, stretching from W. Kentucky Avenue south to the Interstate-20 service road, to be completed early next year. The grant will be used toward Phase 2 of the project, which extends approximately 2 miles between W. California and W. Tennessee Avenues through Ward 1. This greenway will be the first of its kind in North Louisiana.
Ruston’s master plan also calls for a $15 million sports complex, which boasts multiple ball fields, soccer and football areas, and a walking track. The ambitious master plan allows for future business growth with sewer, water, and road improvements along with attracting more families by adding new amenities and enhancing its quality of life assets.
Already, this small town has gained national attention on The Ellen DeGeneres Show as the home of Monster Moto, a manufacturer of youth-oriented recreational vehicles. Ruston was also recognized as a top retirement destination by “Where to Retire” magazine based on its low taxes and plentiful amenities that appeal to retirees. These successes demonstrate that no matter the size of the community, Ruston’s progressive leadership and vision for its future prove that “Excellence is Made Here.”