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City prepares to go it alone on trail funds

stjoenews-press.com/main.asp?Search=1&ArticleID=32093&SectionID=81&SubSectionID=272&S=1

Saturday, September 14, 2002

By PATTY SCULLY
[email protected]

After relying on federal grants to foot 90 percent of the bill for miles of urban trails, the city of St. Joseph is preparing to go it alone. A citizens committee this spring recommended the city spend $1.5 million to build a path from Commercial Street to Mansfield Road — the final link in a system of hike-and-bike trails running from Krug Park to Hyde Park.

The City Council scotched plans to construct this leg of the trail with federal funds more than three years ago, citing the high cost of meeting handicapped-accessibility rules. The terrain is so steep that multiple switchbacks would have been required to meet incline specifications. If the city pays the freight, however, the slope doesn’t have to meet federal guidelines.

Andy Clements, assistant public works director, also said the city wouldn’t have to do an archeological survey to determine whether American Indian artifacts may be disturbed by the project around King Hill.

King Hill was the sacred burial hill of the Missouri Indians, whose village was located at its base in the early 1800s. According to legend, Chief White Cloud went to the top of King Hill to pray for guidance before signing the Platte Purchase Treaty in 1836. The following year, the Pottawatomie tribe, the Sac and Fox band, and the Ioway tribe were relocated west and the land was opened for settlement.

Mr. Clements assured the committee that “the city will do the right thing” if construction unearths any Indian artifacts.

The $1.5 million would come from a five-year extension of a half-cent sales tax for capital improvements.

Voters will decide the fate of the capital improvement program Nov. 5. The tax generates about $5 million a year.

To J.L. Robertson, a member of the committee, finishing the trail is critical to the campaign theme that the city keeps its promises.

“We told you we were going to do it, and we did it,” Mr. Robertson said.

When some committee members questioned the cost of the project, committee member Patt Lilly advised that it’s “difficult to quantify” the benefits of urban trails.

Most of the committee considered the trail system a quality-of-life issue and therefore important to economic development.

The system was designed in 1995. Since then, the city has put more than $2 million into design and construction, with most of the money coming from federal transportation grants.

The paths run parallel to the city’s historic parkways, starting at the Northside Complex across St. Joseph Avenue from Krug Park, then wending along the Northwest Parkway to Corby Pond and east to Ashland Avenue. Existing sidewalks link the trail south to Bartlett Park, where the path winds south with the Southwest Parkway to Commercial and 22nd streets.

Two years ago, construction was completed north from Hyde Park to Mansfield Road.

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