Sep. 15—Congratulations to Missouri Southern State University and the city of Joplin for completing a half-mile trail that connects the university to shopping, movies and restaurants in and around Northpark Mall.
It is — pardon the pun — a big step.
The 10-foot-wide, asphalt-covered trail runs from the Regal Northstar movie theater property to MSSU's tennis courts. It can accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, has solar-powered lights and 13 security cameras. It includes a 90-foot bridge over Turkey Creek.
Rob Yust, MSSU's vice president for business affairs, said at the dedication last week: "We were looking for a better way to add safety for our students to be able to walk to the mall, to the theater and other places like that. The city did a fantastic job in securing a grant from the Missouri Department of Transportation. It was very much a collaborative effort from all parts."
Let's not stop there.
What would it take to connect the Regal Theater end of this new trail, either along Turkey Creek itself or Turkey Creek Road on the north end of the mall, with the eastern edge of that paved section of city trail that already follows Turkey Creek from the Frisco Greenway to the stoplight at Newman Road and Florida Avenue? Could that trail be extended eastward, either along Turkey Creek itself or along Newman Road, with an underpass at Newman Road and Range Line Road as has been done with the Razorback in Northwest Arkansas?
Not so fast.
There are sources of transportation funding on the way, one courtesy of Missouri taxpayers, thanks to incremental increases in the gasoline tax, and the other federal, with transportation funding included in the $1 trillion infrastructure plan, along with money for broadband, utilities and more. And as part of the Great American Outdoors Act, signed into law last year, Congress also is funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund to the tune of $900 million annually. Trails are eligible for that money.
It's been said that cities are now in an arms race of sorts, competing to offer quality-of-life amenities such as trails and greenspace because technology allows people to take their jobs with them instead of following their jobs.
Keenan Cortez, mayor pro tem, said at the trail dedication: "It's been a great opportunity for the students in our community to be able to leave campus and get into our retail and commercial districts without having to use vehicles. They can jump on their bicycle and be over at the mall or the movie theater in no time where they can take a walk and get a little exercise and then go over to the food court. This is a great deal and a great day for the city of Joplin. I'm so proud of how this turned out."
We are too!