[Brian Flinchpaugh contributed to this story.]
At its Jan. 24 meeting, the O’Fallon City Council discussed two resolutions about the Great Rivers Greenway [GRG]. Specifically, the council discussed entering into an intergovernmental agreement with GRG and neighboring municipalities for the development of a St. Charles County Greenway Master Plan and applying for a grant from the Missouri State Parks Recreational Trails Program [RTP] for greenway connectivity within the city.Great Rivers Greenway is a regional parks and trails district that connects St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County via a network of greenways. In most instances, a greenway is defined as a strip of undeveloped land located near an urban area. Typically, the land is intentionally set aside by municipalities or other organizations for environmental protection or recreational uses.
Local greenways are a mixture of both, and the network still has room to grow.
Among the current St. Charles County Gateway Greenway projects are the 4,73-mile Busch Greenway that connects the Katy Trail with the University Research Park to Weldon Spring and Busch conservation areas.
The Busch Greenway includes a possible extension through the August A. Busch Wildlife area and connects with the Dardenne Greenway at Barathaven.
The Boschert Greenway is from New Town to historic St. Charles to the Katy Trail and currently stretches 4.1 miles between the Missouri River near New Town, through St. Charles’ Fox Park to Blanchette Park where it becomes an on-street route for bicycles through Historic St. Charles to the KATY Trail.
The 4.12-Dardenne Greenway that is near the Barathaven subdivision that parallels Dardenne Creek north of I-64. The greenway also winds along the creek from Legacy Park to Dardenne Park.
According to GRG’s website, about 123 miles of greenways currently exist and an estimated 200 miles are in the planning phase for future construction.
GRG is operated by a 24-member staff governed by a 12-member board that is appointed by the executives of St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County. In St. Charles County, GRG is funded through a half-of-one-tenth percent sales tax. Since 2001, those funds have provided revenue to build and sustain portions of the already-existing Dardenne, Busch, Boschert and Centennial greenways.
Local governments are being asked to enter into an Intergovernmental Cooperation and Reimbursement agreement with Great Rivers Greenway for the plan, the goals of which are to:
- Identify proposed greenway corridors that maximize connectivity to existing and other planned greenways, municipal trails and other community destinations such as libraries and schools as well as state, county, and municipal parks.
- Propose rights-of-way and other public use, riparian corridors and other natural corridors for preservation as greenways, and
- Identify signature greenway corridors that will serve as the primary St. Charles County regional greenways. Secondary or municipal trails would provide neighborhood connectivity to these suitable greenways.
“For us, it’s really an opportunity for all of these folks to come together for a couple of different reasons,” Emma Klues, vice president of communications and outreach director for Gateways Greenway, said. She said one reason is to touch base about all the different greenway plans on our books and but also to touch base with them because that are often doing their own trail building projects or trail planning.
Klues said one goal is to increase the efficiency of trail development.
It makes sense as far as local communities and Great Rivers Greenway aligning their projects with what else is going on and coordinating project priorities, she added. But the plan doesn’t mean each city won’t continue to develop their own plans and projects. “It’s not a new layer of policy, it’s more a coordination effort,” Klues said. She added that there will be a public engagement process involved with developing the plan, which will include informational and public meetings. Those details are being finalized.
The plan also seeks to explore the potential establishment of alternative transportation options, which includes:
- gaining the support of the County Road Board
- leveraging transportation grant funding
- enhancing current facilities, providing multiple modes of mobility
- promoting public education and outreach on the greenways
- creating partnerships with an ownership stake
- investigating funding and opportunities to leverage investment and support for grant applications
- adopting a trail enhancement measure and more
Nine cities are expected to reimburse Gateways Greenway for up to $100,000 based on population. Those cities and amounts are:
- Cottleville, $400
- Dardenne Prairie, $2,000
- Lake Saint Louis, $2,400
- O’Fallon, $12,000
- City of St. Charles, $10,000
- St. Peters, $8,000
- Weldon Spring, $800
- Wentzville, $4,400
- St. Charles County, $60,000
The remainder of the $250,000 cost will be covered by GRG. The final plan is slated for completion in late 2019.
O’Fallon’s contribution is budgeted into the city’s 2019 in the Parks Division capital budget. The final vote was 9-0 unanimously in favor of entering into the intergovernmental agreement.
The Dardenne Prairie Board of Aldermen approved the agreement at its Jan. 16 meeting. St. Peters approved entering into the agreement at its board meeting on Jan. 17.
Jeff Hutsler, St. Peters’ manager of parks and golf services, said that coordination and cooperation were key considerations in entering into the agreement. “We [cities] have been doing our separate things,” he said.
On Jan. 17, O’Fallon also entertained a resolution to apply for grant funding to enhance GRG connectivity along O’Fallon’s greenways, specifically from Winghaven across Dardenne Creek and connecting to the Barat Haven trail. The current Dardenne Greenway reaches Barat Haven and spans Legacy Park to Dardenne Park.
The applications would include entities like Missouri State Parks Recreational Program, Land and Water Conservation, East-West Gateway Council of Governments, and any other agencies that could assist with trail upgrading and connectivity.
Councilmember Rose Mack [Ward 2] expressed concern about the lack of funding for the project.
“I am in total favor of the recreational trails program,” Mack said at the Jan. 24 meeting. “What I do not like about this is, again, we don’t have the monetary amount that we are committing the city to, and I don’t like it when we get these things that are hanging out there.”
In response, Cindy Springer, O’Fallon’s managing director of parks and recreation, stated that the motion before the council was only for the grant application process. If successful, the greenway connectivity project would still come back to the city council for approval.
“At present, it’s an 80-20 [cost] split, but we’re still calculating the design costs and we have to have a resolution showing the council’s support to submit with the grant approval that’s due Feb. 15,” Springer said. “So time was of the essence, so we were asking for the council’s approval up front.”
She noted that there are “several outside sources that are willing to assist with this project.”
Council approval of the resolution presented on Jan. 24 would allow for multi-model trail connectivity efforts to be further pursued with GRG, Trailnet and other adjacent property owners or organizations. According to the resolution, “there is no approved budget for matching funds for grant applications that are to be submitted should matching funds be a requirement of the process. If necessary, a mid-year budget adjustment will be requested.”
“It bothers me to vote on something I don’t have an actual figure [for],” Mack said.
Springer reminded the council that the city always can refuse a grant award if the determined final costs of the project are a concern.
The final vote on the grant application resolution was 8-1, with Mack voting in opposition.