South County Times 2012.
The Great Rivers Greenway (GRG) district unveiled plans for the Gravois Greenway, a two-mile extension to Grant’s Trail, at an open house held for the public November 26. The extension will begin at the end of Grant’s Trail near I-55 and Union Road, and connect to the River Des Peres Greenway at Lemay Park, and provide more than 16 miles of through connectivity for the 650,000 annual trail users.
The long-term vision of the GRG is an encompassing 600-mile interconnected system of trails, greenways, bicycle routes and parks that follow the rivers surrounding the St. Louis area called The River Ring Project. The idea took shape within a citizen-driven planning process in 2003. Once completed, the GRG says that the entire project will “link three counties, join two states, and cover an area of 1,216 square miles.”
“What is unique about this trail is that it is a connector trail,” said Paul Reitz, from Reitz and Jens Inc., the civil engineers for the project. “The key on this trail specifically is the connectivity, they [GRG] want to be able to connect into the other systems of trails…there is a whole trail system along the River Des Peres and a whole trail system along the Mississippi River.”
According to Reitz, the project must have a continuous right-of-way, and current usage and potential availability of property play a role in that element. Part of the process is to educate through information and answer any questions to make sure everyone understands where the right-of-ways are and how important this is for the community.
Property owners are contacted through a person-to-person process and negotiations and addressing concerns takes time. The estimated start of the project is 2014 with completion in 2015. One goal of the project is to get as close as possible to residential areas and connect to those areas allowing greater public access to the trails. Amenities along the proposed trail include wetlands and a floodplain that could be used as an educational area.
Gerry Biedenstein, St. Louis County Parks and Recreation special project manager, said that once the alignment is finalized and the construction process completed, the St. Louis County Parks Department would be responsible for the unincorporated portions of the trail. The most challenging part of the regular maintenance process is simply trying not to interfere with the public’s usage. The trails are mowed six feet on either side and beyond that it is left in a natural state. A blower follows up immediately to make sure the process is streamlined to minimize the inconvenience to the many trail users.
“A wide variety of folks ranging from the elderly doing cardio because of a recent heart attack to people pushing souped-up strollers on roller blades to kids learning how to ride a bike,” said Biedenstein. “That is the uniqueness of it.”
GRG is a public organization created by a vote of the people in 2000. Their goal is to make St. Louis a better place to live by “connecting an interconnected system of trails and greenways, designed to connect communities, provide transportation alternatives, preserve nature, improve health and increase the economic vitality of the region. GRG includes St. Louis City and County and St. Charles County.” For more information, visit www.grgstl.org.
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