Greenway's reach continues to branch out
Sunday, June 29, 2014
The constant whir of bicycle tires and pounding of feet around Jefferson City demonstrate local enthusiasm for an ongoing public works project designed to get the public off the couch, proponents of the trail say.
The greenway system of paved biking/pedestrian trails crisscrossing the city continues to expand since its inception in the early 1990s.
The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, which oversees the construction and maintenance of the trail, recently broke ground on a project that includes the reuse of a pedestrian bridge that once spanned Wears Creek near the Truman Building, according to J.J. Gates, Park Resources and Forestry Division director.
The repurposed pedestrian bridge will connect the current greenway near West Edgewood to the West Edgewood Recreation Area, where there is more than two miles of biking and hiking trails, Gates said.
Gates believes the installment of the pedestrian bridge “will increase usage (of the trails) moderately,” though he characterized the trails as “steep” and “more aggressive … than those at Binder Park.”
Other greenway updates include the connection of McKay Park and Southwest Boulevard, as well as construction along Business 50 and Frog Hollow Road, Gates said.
Though Gates hopes the department will purchase a trail counter this summer to accurately measure trail traffic, he believes numerous pedestrians and cyclists use the greenway.
“Without a doubt, we can safely say the greenway is the most popular facility (of Parks and Recreation). We’ve heard nothing but good things about it,” he said.
Following the meeting of focus groups in the late 1980s, the greenway began in the early 1990s with a pilot section constructed from Dunklin to Ohio Street, Gates said.
The department most recently updated the Greenway Master Plan, available online, in 2007.
Describing the greenway as “high priority” for the community, Gates hopes to acquire funds to further extend the greenway, which currently runs 15.5 miles.
The April 2011 opening of the pedestrian bridge connecting the greenway with the Katy Trail represents a definitive milestone in the continued growth of the greenway, Gates said.
“For a long time, we were cut off from the north side. It’s a great opportunity for people in town and for people on the Katy Trail to come into town,” Gates said.
Despite the breakthrough, the department continues to identify “boundless new opportunities to connect the greenway trail,” Gates said.
Though the greenway is “out there for enjoyment,” it also offers an “alternative transportation route for folks,” one that is “safer than the roads,” according to Gates.
Nick Smith, owner of Red Wheel Bike Shop, views firsthand the extensive use of the greenway — from the front window of his store.
Smith moved Red Wheel Bike Shop to his current location at 2701 W. Edgewood Drive from one bordering Truman Boulevard in order to be closer to the greenway, he said.
Smith and many others travel the greenway to and from work, he said.
“When I need to go to work, I use the greenway. A lot of people use the greenway as the main thoroughfare to get from point A to point B. It’s a good place to bike,” Smith said.
At times of day when the road traffic volume is greater, Smith believes the greenway offers a “safe, controlled environment away from traffic. It gives people who want to ride around town more opportunities to do that,” he said.
“I think the streets in Jefferson City are intimidating for a vast majority of people,” he said.
Smith has personally observed the effects of the extension of the greenway, he said.
“When the greenway goes up into a neighborhood, people come down the trail to look at bikes,” he said.
In a more competitive use of the greenway, it provides ample space for organizing and hosting races, according to Gary Fogelbach, member of the Jeff City Road Runners club.
“We’re interested in putting on local races and helping other people put on races,” he said.
Racing on the greenway keeps competitors away from road traffic and on level surfaces for running, Fogelbach said.
The Jeff City Road Runners club measures course distances, keeps time during the races and constructs finish line areas for local races.
One such event is the annual Kyle Billington Memorial 5K, which takes place this year on July 19. The event memorializes Kyle Billington, an avid runner, who died as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident. The Jeff City Road Runners club and Debbie Jungmeyer, Billington’s mother, organize the event along the West Edgewood section of the greenway.
“It’s turned into a big thing. It’s a stalwart event on the greenway. Kyle Billington exemplifies the greenway,” Fogelbach said of the event. “It (the greenway) becomes a gathering place that morning.”
In addition to organizing races, Fogelbach also bikes and runs along the greenway on his own. He often traverses from his home north of Highway 50 to the entrance on Dunklin Street, then on to Cole County Park, he said.
“It’s real nice riding on the greenway. People on it are friendly and courteous. You see everyone from little kids on bikes … up to people in their 70s and 80s out walking,” he said.
In addition to continued support for the greenway and events run on its surface, Fogelbach expressed interest in the construction of a safer Highway 50 crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. Smith and Gates shared similar sentiments.
“Jefferson City is bisected by Highway 50. One of the drawbacks (of using the greenway over longer distances) is that you have to cross it,” Fogelbach said.
According to Gates, some discussion has occurred regarding the project; however, construction over a major highway would prove expensive, and funds are limited.
“We have talked about some way to cross Highway 50,” Gates said.
Fogelbach cited the greenway as one physical aspect that makes Jefferson City “an attractive place to live.”
The greenway, he said, helps encourage a greater amount of physical activity among Jefferson City residents.
“It lets people know Jefferson City is interested in getting people out of doors,” he said. It’s what makes Jefferson City great.”
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