By LESLIE COLLINS
June 26, 2013
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Will Royster, president of the Cliff Drive Corridor Management Committee.
Connecting Cliff Drive Scenic Byway to the Spirit of Kansas City Byway could turn Cliff Drive into a regional and national destination, he said.
The proposed connection is becoming more of a reality since the city of Kansas City recently allocated $330,000 for the project from District 4 funds.
The $330,000 is part of a required grant match for the $832,518 National Scenic Byway Program grant that was awarded to the city in August of 2012.
Funding will be used to connect the Spirit of Kansas City to Cliff Drive with a 10-foot wide biking and pedestrian concrete trail consisting of approximately 2,300 linear feet. ADA accessible concrete ramps and landings will be added to the trail heads at Highland Avenue and Dora Street. In addition, a trail will connect the parking area on The Paseo to the trail head at Highland Avenue and a third trail will connect the parking area at the gazebo at Highland Avenue to the south entrance gate of Cliff Drive at Lexington Avenue. Route and bikeway signage will also be added. The connection will begin at The Paseo and Highland Avenue and continue to 3rd Street and Wyandotte Avenue.
Royster said he envisions the project as a stepping stone for more outdoor activities along Cliff Drive, like ropes courses, zip-lining, an archery club, an expanded disc golf course, among other activities. He also expects the connection will lead more people to visit Northeast, who might not otherwise check out the area.
To further promote Cliff Drive, the Corridor Management Committee is in the process of overhauling its website and wants to become an umbrella for outdoor groups and promote them on the website.
In terms of the timeline for the project, Scott Overbay of the city’s parks and recreation department said the next step is for the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) to approve the funding agreement, since it’s administering the grant. Overbay expects MoDOT to grant approval within two to six weeks. Once the agreement is approved, the city will seek out an engineer to design the trail project and gain a firmer idea on the construction timeline, he said.
The Spirit of KC already connects to the Riverfront Heritage Trail which crosses into Kansas; once the two scenic byways connect, the result will be one lengthy trail that spans from Belmont to Kansas City, Kan., Overbay said.
“It’s going to provide recreation. It will help commerce because people will be able to go from the Cliff Drive area to the River Market area for shopping and groceries,” Overbay said.
In addition, it will attract residents to the central industrial district and provide additional access to historical and cultural opportunities, he said.
“That’s huge that we’re going to be able to make this connection for a lot of people and two scenic byways, that’s pretty good,” Overbay said. “I think it will be a nice trail, too, because it will open up a lot of the views to the west, so you’ll be able to see downtown, the Northland and Kansas out to the west. There will be a lot of vantage points just to sit and take it all in.”