Construction workers finish the final steps of a prefabricated bridge installation that is the beginning of the Lake Ewuana Trail project.

The first piece of the Lake Ewauna Trail that will connect Klamath Falls to more than 150 miles of trail and serve as a draw for tourism and economic development was put in place Thursday near Veterans Memorial Park.

A prefabricated bridge that spans a marsh area behind the site of a planned Oxford Suites motel was set into place by a crane.

It is the beginning stage of a trail that will wind around Lake Ewauna toward the city’s wastewater treatment plant and, in the future, connect to the OC&E Trail.

“I see (the Lake Ewauna Trail) as a big boon for economic development in Klamath Falls,” said Klamath Falls parks superintendent Ken Hay. “I look for this to be the catalyst for development downtown and to attract visitors.”

The bridge, along with its adjoining trail connection to George Nurse Way, cost about $175,000 to install. Funding was obtained through a lottery-financed Oregon State Parks grant, Hay said.

The whole trail system will cost close to $1 million, with most of the funding coming from grants. The city parks department recently was awarded a $650,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s Flexible Funds Program.

While the southeastern side of the bridge currently ends in undeveloped forest and grasslands, plans are in the works for a trail that will extend to the wastewater treatment plant, and Hay hopes to break ground on the project in less than two years.

The next big step is constructing a bridge that will span the railroad yards, Hay said. The parks department has an easement near the wastewater plant that will connect to the future bridge, which was designed by students from the Oregon Institute of Technology. The easement was donated by TimberMill Shores manager Rob Shaw.

When the project is completed, the overall trail system will connect Klamath Falls residents to the Running Y Ranch Resort and Crater Lake, among other areas.

“Anyone living with the urban growth boundary will be just a few blocks from a trail system that could have you hiking for a week or a month, whatever you want,” Hay said.