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A Link to the Future: Expansion proposed for Springfield greenways

Officials want to connect downtown and Wonders of Wildlife

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The city, along with community partners, is working on an expansion of the town’s greenway trail system after applying for a grant this summer.  

Ozark Greenways Inc. Executive Director Mary Kromrey said the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development Transportation Discretionary Grants program, better known as a BUILD grant, carries a maximum award of $25 million. The goal of the project is to connect downtown Springfield to the Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium.

“The first phase of the project runs from the Bass Pro Wonders of Wildlife down Grant Street to College that’s already being streetscaped and redeveloped up to Boonville,” said city Councilman Richard Ollis. “Depending on how the money lasted, then it would continue on Boonville all the way to Commercial Street.”

Kromrey, Ollis and other community members went on a research trip to the Razorback Regional Greenway in Northern Arkansas in June and the Atlanta BeltLine in April.

An economic impact study recently conducted by Denver-based BBC Research & Consulting Inc. showed $137 million is being generated from bicycling in northern Arkansas.

“It has created economic development on steroids,” Ollis said.

He said after visiting the BeltLine in Atlanta and the Razorback Regional Greenway in Arkansas, he learned about the development of expanded business presence and foot traffic the region experienced.

The Razorback Greenway didn’t happen overnight. Planning for the project began in 2000 with the official dedication happening in May 2015. The Atlanta BeltLine project began as a graduate thesis idea in 1999 and is expected to be complete in 2030, according to BeltLine.org.

“The BeltLine, to me, is a great case study on the power of leading with a vision of what the completed project is going to be. It might take 30 years to complete that project but that’s what they lead with while the rest is being in filled and developed,” Kromrey said.

City entities involved with the Grant Avenue Parkway Trail Connection Project are Ozark Greenways, City Utilities, Springfield-Greene County Park Board and the Ozark Transportation Organization.

“Eventually I could see the business community rallying around this,” Ollis said.

The Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter of recommendation for support, according to Vice President of Strategic Communications Jennifer McClure.

“We believe that we should hear back on [the grant] towards the end of the calendar year,” Kromrey said.

Businesses would benefit from the new mode of transportation. Mother’s Brewing Co. LLC would be on the new proposed greenway path.

“If a greenway would go by the brewery, it would be wonderful. We support anything that promotes connectivity and community. I know how good these trails are for the community,” Mother’s owner Jeff Schrag said.
 
“Adding bike racks is easier for businesses than adding parking.”

If the current bid is not accepted, another BUILD grant proposal would be resubmitted next year.

“We would look at different ways to phase it out and work it into existing budgets and revenue streams,” Kromrey said on how the greenways expansion would be financed without the grant.

The ‘route’ stuff
Historical routes like the Butterfield Stage Coach route, the Trail of Tears and Civil War routes are prominent on the Razorback Greenway. Parts of these trails also are featured in Springfield.

“We have a small section of the Trail of Tears that has a natural surface trail on it. Right now, it’s pretty much the neighborhoods around there that access it. It’s kind of land-locked,” Kromrey said.

“The Butterfield Stage Coach route actually crossed up on Saw Creek and South Dry Sac Creek and together on the north side of town.”

One project that will tie into the expansion of the Ozark Greenways is the African American Heritage Trail, a cultural trail that would overlap with the greenways, according to Kromrey.

Markers for the trail will begin to be placed this fall.

“Smith Park has the Jordan Creek greenway going through there, so part of our markers can go along this already existing path,” she said. “The African American Heritage Trail is really fantastic, highlighting that heritage in our city that so many don’t know about.”

Community benefits
One benefit of greenway expansion is property value increases.

“Typically homes close to a greenway trail or some sort of trail system sell for more and more quickly,” Kromrey said.

Homes in the housing development Shepard’s Vineyard in Apex, North Carolina, still sold rapidly even after $5,000 was added to the price due to being located adjacent to a greenway, according to Greenways Inc. information.

Other benefits include overall health and working talent for the city.

“We see the health benefits whether you’re looking at the health of an individual or of a population,” Kromrey said. “Other communities that have developed these trail networks and systems, it is helping with talent recruitment, attraction and retention. As millennials are looking for jobs, there’s certain things that they want their community to have. With our aging population ... they want walkable communities, too.”

Ollis agreed.

“We have to create a community that has these types of amenities so we can both attract and retain these young professionals and others,” he said. 

After experiencing the Arkansas community firsthand and seeing the commitment to outdoor travel by its citizens, Kromrey thinks Springfield can duplicate that feeling.

“We’re not quite there yet. If you go down to Bentonville, Arkansas, I’m going to say the majority of cars you see have a bike rack or a bike attached to them somehow,” she said. “So how I know that we’ve arrived is if we were at the Bass Pro parking lot and the majority of those cars have racks or stickers. That’s when I’ll know this is a tourist draw for our community.

“I feel like we are poised to have our tipping point here in Springfield.”

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