Northwest Facility Services will submit a grant proposal to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Recreational Trails Program to fund phase one of a project converting a local railbed into a trail through Maryville.
The grant proposal was unanimously approved at the Jan. 30 Board of Regents meeting, allowing it to be submitted to MDNR.
The Recreational Trails Program is federally funded through the Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
Vice President of Finance and Administration Stacey Carrick said the grant, if awarded, will pay for 80% or $200,000 of the total project costs estimated at $250,000, with Northwest funding the remaining $50,000.
The complete, three-phase project — a piece of the larger 2016 Campus Master Plan — will stretch 1.25 miles east to west from North Country Club Road to Wabash Depot.
Phase one of the project is the easternmost section from North Country Club Road to Phillips Depot.
Assistant Vice President of Capital Programs Allen Mays said this is a great opportunity to improve an old railbed and create a connection for foot, bike and maintenance vehicle traffic throughout the community.
“This particular portion of railbed is a tired area,” Mays said. “We use it primarily … to take vehicles from one side of campus to the other. There may be an occasional passer-byer but it’s really not in great shape at all.”
Mays said because the section taking up phase one is in the worst shape, most of the project would be cleaning up the trail and installing signage.
He said it’s a great opportunity to beautify the campus and arboretum, to provide more recreation space and better connect the campus to the broader community. It also can have a tourism appeal and draw people into the community.
“These trails have a tendency to seek out folks who are looking for this type of history around old railbeds,” Mays said.
Vice Chair of the Board of Regents Roxanna Swaney asked about the safety of the trail for a mix of pedestrians and bikes, and if it was wide enough for an ambulance. Mays said the railbed is currently 12 feet wide, well over the 8-foot minimum for a trail of this type.
He also said there would be limits on the types of traffic allowed in order to keep pedestrians safe.
Board Member John Moore asked about the cost of maintenance for the trail and whether the grant extended to cover those costs.
Mays said while the grant does not cover maintenance on the trails, it would be minimal and inexpensive, and it could easily be covered within the facility services budget.
“Right now the path is overgrown but still usable,” Mays said. “We just need to clean the space up, do some landscaping and beautification and apply some gravel.”
By using federal grant money for the trail, the expectation is that the trail will be maintained in perpetuity as a new public asset.