The first phase of the Downtown Greenway, a 2.75-mile bike and pedestrian corridor that will link neighborhoods to parks, businesses and attractions, was dedicated Tuesday morning.

The Downtown Greenway at Expressway Park is 700 feet of trails connecting Myrtle Avenue to the park at the intersection of South and East boulevards. The paths will make it safer and easier for residents in Old South Baton Rouge and Beauregard Town to move around. The greenway was built through a collaborative effort between BREC and the Downtown Development District.

“This will remove people from the roadways and give them a safe opportunity to exercise, bike and push babies,” said Carolyn McKnight, BREC superintendent.

It cost $224,023 to build the Expressway Park portion of the greenway. Grants totaling $179,218 from the Office of State Parks and the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism covered part of the project.

The greenway ties into recent improvements at Expressway Park, like replacing basketball goals inside the park’s gym, adding tables and a water fountain. Future improvements include adding picnic areas, planting trees, fixing up the outdoor basketball court and installing lighting at the park’s football field. McKnight’s announcement of the lighting drew cheers and applause.

Future phases of the greenway will connect City Park with North Boulevard Town Square and the Florida Street-River Road gateway. The plan is to eventually run the trails to BREC Memorial Park and connect with trails running as far south as Siegen Lane.

Davis Rhorer, executive director of the DDD, said the greenway came out of the Plan Baton Rouge II land use guidelines as a means of embracing inner-city neighborhoods. “We’re going to do a lot of different things with this,” Rhorer said. “Not only is it recreational, but it’s a means to the job centers.”