Explore Columbia trail system plans unveiled - Republic-Times | News

Explore Columbia trail system plans unveiled

By on September 12, 2012 at 10:03 am

Pictured, Sarah Vogt of Heartlands Conservancy answers questions from Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein of Columbia during Thursday’s open house at City Hall. (Andrea Degenhart photo)

A open house to view designs and engage in dialogue about a long-range plan to create a comprehensive biking and walking trail system through Columbia drew a steady stream of interested residents Thursday evening at City Hall.

“This is the most people we’ve had at a public event like this,” said Megan Riechmann of Heartlands Conservancy, who is working in part with a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation to design the project.

The goal is to create, over the next 20 years, an integrated biking and walking trail system that will increase recreational and fitness opportunities, and also eventually provide safe walking and biking routes to destinations like parks, shopping areas, schools, recreation areas and historic sites.

In addition to installing new trails and expanding and linking existing trails, other elements of the project include safety measures such as widening sidewalks, adding bike lanes to streets, and creating safer ways to cross busy intersections, as well as parking designed for safe bicycle loading and unloading.

Following months of public input, members of the Heartlands Conservancy joined city officials Thursday night to answer questions, gather more data on what Columbians would like to see in a trail system, and address concerns expressed by residents of some neighborhoods that may see their private biking and walking trails linked with the city’s system.

On draft plan maps presented Thursday night, shared lanes for walkers and cyclists are proposed on Veterans Parkway, Ghent Road, Metter Avenue, Rueck Road, Old State Route 3, West Park Drive, Valmeyer Road, Burroughs Road and Gall Road, among other roadways. Planned improved shoulders and sidewalks have been proposed on Main Street and Admiral Parkway.

A proposed trail runs near Bluff Road and Old Bluff Road past the Sand Bank School and then around to the area of Palmer/Quarry Road. Another proposed trail runs from near the Monroe County Welcome Center (Shoemaker School) east of Main Street and north to American Legion Park.

From public input gathered earlier this year, the top destinations for pedestrians and cyclists in Columbia include shops, restaurants and businesses along Main Street, as well as Bolm-Schuhkraft Park and Metter Park.

The Explore Columbia project is nearing the end of the data collection stage, Riechmann said. Next, a presentation of a draft plan will be made to the Columbia Play Commission, followed by the Columbia Planning Commission. Finally, based on the recommendations  of those two commissions, the plan will be presented to the full Columbia City Council for approval.

“Ideally, it will be adopted as part of the (city’s) comprehensive plan,” Riechmann said.

The trail plan will include a breakdown of recommendations by year. Optimally, the city will apply for grants that will allow for the completion of a predetermined portion of the project each year.

Another benefit of the project’s inclusion in the comprehensive plan is that it will help in the engineering of future projects.

“When the city takes on road infrastructure projects, they may be able to incorporate small amounts of the Explore Columbia recommendations into those projects,” Riechmann said. “This efficiency of construction equipment can save a significant portion of the potential implementation costs.”

Riechmann encourages anyone with questions, concerns, or ideas about how to make Columbia’s trail system better, to contact her at Megan.Riechmann@HeartlandsConservancy.org.

(With additional reporting from Elizabeth Loy)

Andrea F.D. Saathoff

Andrea is a graduate of Gibault High School and the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the University of Missouri Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Education. She lives in Columbia with her husband and their twin toddler sons. When she isn't cheering on St. Louis Cardinals baseball or riding the emotional roller coaster of Mizzou Tigers football, she enjoys attending and participating in the many family events the county has to offer. email: andrea@republictimes.net