Archive for Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Officials want to blaze green trails in Leavenworth County

July 29, 2009

Officials in Leavenworth County want to promote greener travel and safer recreation.

To do that, they are looking at bringing trails back in a big way.

Victoria Rowley, economic development coordinator for the Leavenworth County Development Corporation and Leavenworth County Port Authority, recently restarted the committee devoted to planning and constructing trails in the county.

“I heard a lot of interest from existing businesses and people from the community about starting the trails committee back again,” Rowley said. “They said if there were biking trails, they would bike to work if they could. People want sidewalks around the Urban Hess Industrial site so they can walk to their store. But right now there is not the infrastructure to do that.”

On July 22, Rowley, along with representatives from the county, met at the LCDC office for the first trails committee meeting since the committee was disbanded two years ago.

Their primary objective is to interconnect all of the communities and make sure those communities have trails connected to primary destination points.

“Once we come up with that plan, we’ll be working on a master plan, something more definite and formal,” Rowley said. “We’ll take into consideration landowners, what type of trails users want and, specifically, the cost.”

Rowley said the committee doesn’t need any funding while it is still in the planning stages, but eventually finding the money to start the trail program is something it will have to face.

“A lot of the cities and the county aren’t budgeted for trails in the near future,” she said. “Finding funding will be difficult, but there will be some grant funds available for planning and some other funding from state agencies that we’ll be able to tap into. It will definitely be a long-term process.”

The Mid-America Regional Council is one of the places the county might turn to get grant funding for trails.

Aaron Bartlett, bicycle and pedestrian safety programming manager for MARC, recently attended the inaugural meeting of the new trail committee. He said he was excited bout the plans the committee had for trail programs and that MARC has different funding opportunities to help construct trails.

“Everyone who was at the meeting loves trails and they understand that this is something that improves the quality of life for its citizens and they see the value of getting together an the county level and planning the system,” Bartlett said.

He said MARC already has a trail plan for the county that is a part of its MetroGreen program, which plans to have an interconnected 1,144-mile greenway area that covers the Kansas City metropolitan area in seven counties.

The first meeting focused on going through the history of the trails program in the county and what some of the general goals for the program might be.

The next meeting will focus on the maps developed by the old committee and developed by the individual communities.

“We don’t want to redo anything we did a few years ago and have to start all over again,” Rowley said.

Kathy Bard, assistant city administrator, is representing Tonganoxie at the meetings. She said she will be presenting the trail maps already developed by the city to expand Chieftain trail.

The meetings are scheduled for 3 p.m. on the fourth Mondays of the month at the LCDC office, 1294 Eisenhower Rd., in Leavenworth.

Rowley said she encourages any trail enthusiasts to come to the meetings and give them their input during the planning stages.

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