Officials in Independence are looking at plans for trails to connect historic parts of the city, an effort to add amenities that are attractive both to residents and to tourists who might be encouraged to spend a little more time in the city.
Those plans could start coming together in 2018. The idea is to connect the Square with the National Frontier Trails Museum a few blocks to the south, as well as with Englewood to the west and the Truman Library to the north.
Assistant City Manager Mark Randall, a recent meeting of civic leaders, outlined the ideas on the table:
• Bike paths – five-foot set-asides at the edge of roadways, though without barriers to screen bike riders from cars and trucks.
• “Shared use” paths – essentially an extra-wide sidewalk.
• “Cycle tracks” – a bike path in the roadway but with a physical barrier to set it off and separate bicyclists from motorists.
There are challenges. Winner Road running into Englewood from the east is narrow in places, so trails could be the loss of sidewalk space or parallel parking.
“It’s just a very difficult problem,” Randall said.
There also are opportunities. The city is trying to find ways for more displays of public art. Randall noted the Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman statues on the Square and the Jim Bridger and Pioneer Woman statues at the Trails Museum.
So what about sculpture on a trail between those sites?
“Yeah, that might be a great way to link them together, using art to do it,” Randall said.
Funding is the biggest challenge.
“We don’t really have the funding figured out, but we’re getting closer to getting it figured out,” Randall said.
One possible idea is approaching the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, which is looking to expand the metro area’s public transit system beyond bus routes. The ATA has a Metro Transit Center on Truman Road just off Noland Road, where IndeBus routes converge and many riders board or change buses. If the city developed a connection from the Metro Stop to the Truman Depot, it’s possible ATA funding would be available for that.
Mayor Eileen Weir has pressed for trails and other improvements to keep bringing people to the Square and other historic parts of the city. Getting some specifics on paper is crucial, she said.
“You can’t get money without plans,” she said.