The objectives of the Missouri Riverfront Trail project are bringing people together, protecting natural resources, and enhancing the wellness and vitality of Platte County citizens and the region.
As the lead partners for the development and maintenance of the Missouri Riverfront Trail (MRT), Platte County and the City of Riverside started with an aggressive list of objectives to develop an innovative, sustainable trail:
(1) Brings people and natural resources together
(2) Satisfies citizen needs
(3) Creates bonds of community partnership
(4) Protects and enhances the natural environment
(5) Benefits the health and wellness of Platte County citizens and visitors
(6) Increases economic and social vitality of the County and region
The MRT presents an innovative partnership to plan, develop, and maintain one of the highest priority regional, recreational amenities for Platte County citizens. The Northland Trails Vision Plan is the trail development guidance document used by Platte County. This plan, compiled through numerous opportunities for citizen input listed the Missouri Riverfront Trail as its highest priority. Platte County residents place a high value on wellness and the environment. Operational partners include the City of Riverside, Missouri, and the Riverside-Quindaro Bend Levee Board. The City of Riverside and the Levee Board fund all maintenance and security costs for the trail.
The MRT project provided a way to address citizen needs by developing a 3.5 mile walking and bicycling path along the most prominent natural resource in the County, the Missouri River. The project involved cooperation from multiple public and private partners. Funding for the project came from a variety of sources, including a voter approved County-wide parks sales tax. The innovative project utilized a section of a private levee for the pathway, making it one of the first such projects in the Midwest. Opened in August 2008, the MRT was an immediate success with area residents. The project provided a new service to county residents, enhanced county government partnerships with cities and the private sector, and brought more citizens into an active role of planning for their future.
Through County Commission leadership, this project vision was developed and realized. The Commission created this aggressive set of objectives knowing that many different needs could be met through one project. When a project meets many core citizen needs, it is stronger. Although trails are recognized as amenities in many communities, the Commission’s objective was not just simply to get a trail built for people to enjoy.
Situated in a floodplain and on a levee, the MRT presented some unique challenges for development and implementation that required innovative partnerships. From the initial planning started in 2002, the County realized that this project would take dedication.
Some of the key steps initiated by the County during development and implementation were:
Knowing the potential benefits of the MRT and the wide citizen support for the project, County leadership capitalized on this resource by organizing a planning team that included the cities of Riverside and Parkville and local citizens. The cities of Riverside and Parkville embraced the opportunity to connect their communities with the trail and provided necessary partnership and support as the County approached the CORPS and Levee District for trail corridor permission. Once permission was granted, the County, with assistance from a design team, worked closely with the CORPS and the Levee District to follow their necessary processes to ensure that the levee would be protected and maintain its integrity and purpose. Additionally the County applied for and received a Recreational Trails Program grant which, besides providing extra funds for the project, helped show the wide-ranging support for the trail throughout the state.
This support was echoed locally through the opportunities citizens were given to provide input during the planning process. Strategic public meetings were held near the trail site. At these meetings, citizens were presented with plans and given one-on-one opportunities to voice support and design ideas for the trail. During the planning process, the County Commission saw the need to preempt and answer any concerns that the Levee District might have about the maintenance and safety of the trail. Without being asked, they assembled a team including Levee District representation to create procedures that would be followed to maintain the trail while protecting the levee integrity. County Commissioners and staff also worked with private landowners to secure additional easements that were necessary to link the trail segments and complete the project.
Since the trail opening, the County has received praise from citizens of many different demographic backgrounds. Everyone from the daily bicycle commuter to the young families walking with kids and pets to the senior citizens who appreciate the views of the river to the regular running clubs are taking advantage of the great project that connects them to each other and surrounding natural resources. The MRT increases the health of the community physically, socially, and economically. Anyone can access the trail as a free and easy way to exercise and interact with natural resources. It has also created a greater sense of community by bringing people of different backgrounds together in supporting a common goal and using a common recreational element and transportation route. Economically, the use of the levee helps the trail to be more sustainable because there is no duplication of trail materials resources. Local companies also recognize the trail as an amenity to maintain the quality of our community and realize the ability to attract quality employees to such a community.
The MRT has been an immediate success. Already the most popular and heavily used trail in the county, over two hundred people per day walk, jog, and bicycle along the route. The trail, which is part of a larger system of trails in the Kansas City area called “MetroGreen,” is a regional destination. It is not uncommon to see out-of-state license plates at the trailheads or to strike up a conversation with visitors from another county. Shortly after opening, the Kansas City Star issued an editorial recognizing the Riverfront Trail as an excellent example for the vision of the regional trails system in Kansas City. In fact, this trail will provide a critical link in the planned bi-state trails system between St. Louis and Omaha, Nebraska.
The project enhanced county government partnerships by affording the opportunity to collaborate with two municipal governments, state and federal government, a regional council, a private levee district and two private businesses. This level of cooperation to achieve a common goal is unprecedented in Platte County. In addition, the project success would not have been possible without the direct involvement of county citizens. From public meetings to online feedback, citizens engaged in the planning and let their voice be heard. County leaders listened and delivered results as promised. Platte County Presiding Commissioner put it best at the grand opening ceremony when she stated “The inspiration for this project came from the Platte County citizens; the people spoke and this opening today is what they asked for.”