By LESLIE COLLINS
August 29, 2012
Cliff Drive Scenic Byway is one step closer to being connected to the Riverfront Heritage Trail.
An Aug. 2 email notified the Kansas City Parks and Recreation Department that it received a $832,518 grant from the National Scenic Byway Program. The grant will be used to construct a pedestrian and biking trail from the top of Cliff Drive at The Paseo to near Second and Dora Streets, totaling approximately 2,300 linear feet of trail. A sidewalk will be built under the overpass and Cliff Drive will connect to the Riverfront Heritage Trail, which passes through the River Market and downtown area.
“This is something that the neighborhood and the Riverfront Heritage Trail folks have been wanting to do for a long time,” said Jennifer Jones-Lacy, Parks and Recreation Department special projects manager. “Right now, the only way to get to City Market from the old Northeast area is through Independence Avenue, which is a very busy street; you have to cross over The Paseo expressway, and it’s not the safest route. This provides a completely car-free option for individuals who want to get to City Market.”
For Indian Mound residents David Remley and Katie Greer, having a car-free option is a definite plus.
“I’ve said many times that I would be willing to walk to City Market, but having to walk on Independence Avenue and cross the highway are really big impediments for me being willing to do that,” said Greer, president of Indian Mound Neighborhood Association. “Getting a trail that’s for walking and biking only where I would feel safe crossing the highway is awesome.”
Remley, who bikes along Cliff Drive and to the West Bottoms, said he will look forward to avoiding vehicle traffic and accessing a more direct route to City Market.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said of the future trail.
“The neighborhoods can use Cliff Drive and access City Market on a weekend; it will be much safer to ride or bike down there and get your fruits and vegetables.”
Calls to Adam Schieber and Will Royster of the Cliff Drive Scenic Byway Corridor Management Committee were not returned.
To utilize the grant, the city must match 20 percent of the grant, about $166,000. Parks and Recreation is hoping to secure funding through the Public Improvements Advisory Committee (PIAC) and other non-federal grants to fund the 20 percent match.
Jones-Lacy said this is the last year that the National Scenic Byway Program is awarding grants.
“We were very lucky to get in on the last year they were doing it, and we received a pretty sizable award,” Jones-Lacy said.
Once Parks and Recreation receives its official award letter, the department will begin filling out the necessary paperwork and ensuring the project meets federal and state guidelines. When the department’s new fiscal year begins on May 1, 2013, it will begin searching for a company to design and construct the trail. Jones-Lacy estimated the project will be finished in about two years.
In addition to providing easy access to Historic Northeast and the City Market, Remley said the trail could also spark tourism opportunities. The trail could attract more families and could also be tied in to events like a biking tour or historic homes tour, he said. Greer said the trail could also encourage residents and attendees at the City Market to visit Historic Northeast.
Leslie Caplan, president of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association, envisions the trail will further the neighborhood’s quality of life plan.
“I think it’s just a wonderful thing for the neighborhood and the community,” Caplan said. “One of our neighborhood focuses is to bring amenities to the neighborhood that will attract potential home buyers and tourists. What greater way to do that than to have a wonderful walking and biking trail that fits into the usage of Cliff Drive already?”