While at a golf club in Santa Fe, N.M., I couldn’t help but be drawn to a magnificent painting in its plush library. It depicted folks from a couple centuries ago unloading crates and boxes from wagons in the historic town square.

While at a golf club in Santa Fe, N.M., I couldn’t help but be drawn to a magnificent painting in its plush library. It depicted folks from a couple centuries ago unloading crates and boxes from wagons in the historic town square.

I puffed up a bit because the storyline under the painting explained that the goods had come all the way from the sophisticated metropolis of Independence, which in the early 1800s was the hub of the Santa Fe, Oregon and California Trails.

Then I got to thinkin’ that we are a community of prominent trails – thanks to the Pony Express, Lewis and Clark and the Grandview Triangle (now, according to MoDOT, the Three Trails Crossing) trails.

And then there’s the Longview Lake Trail.

The Longview Trail may not be as famous as the Santa Fe Trail, but now that it’s “new and improved,” it certainly is a lot more user friendly than any of the other historic routes in our area, the exception being Route 66 perhaps.

I spent much of last Saturday riding, running and readin’ along the 6.8-mile lane that runs through Kansas City, Grandview and borders Lee’s Summit. I’ve been a big fan of the tri-city conduit because of its safety and beautiful blend of shade and sun. But because I’d spent either more time in my kayak in the Longview coves or golf on the Longview fairways (roughs, really), I hadn’t been aware that a summer-long renovation had been under way on the bike trail.

Ron Fuhrken is the go-to guy from Jackson County Parks and Recreation who is overseeing the rebuilding of the decades-old trail. So we met in a shady spot not far from where the trail winds south of the swimming beach to discuss the particulars of what, why and when.

The what and why, he said, was because it was needed.

“It was built in the mid 1980s and it’s fallen into a stage of repair that we felt was necessary to just come in and replace the entire thing,” he explained. “They started the work in June and we expect them to finish it sometime this fall.

“We’re widening the trail from eight feet to 10 feet and what that does is bring us into the current trail standards. Then we’re changing the surfacing material from asphalt to crushed limestone aggregate, such as the Katy Trail is constructed of.”

So that pretty much summed it up – including the when.

And for the most part, that’s all I think the users that I encountered Saturday might have really cared about – if that. The success of any civic, community or government project really shouldn’t be measured fully in the details or the even the politics of how they get it done, if indeed, it was done prudently and makes our lives better.

Case in point is the Three Trails Crossing (please don’t say Grandview Triangle) and its recent incredibly-fast reconstruction – AND the new and improved Longview Trail.

The bottom line of the trail’s public approval is in the laughter, smiles and delightful conversations I had with PEOPLE, the users, on Saturday. I met the Minnesota state high school cross country champion while he was on a training run. He raved about the quality and beauty of the trail. I sat and yakked with a Raymore man while his pup rested in the cool, moist grass.

“I’ve been ridin’ this trail either on my bike or with my dogs, I’d say, the last 30 years,” he said with enthusiasm.

Which means that Brian Wade, who grew up in Raytown, has been using it from the beginning, in his case since he was a kid.

“You’ve got some nice areas where there is some sun, but there are plenty of areas with shade as well. It’s so nice because you feel like you’re out in nature where you don’t hear cars. There are birds and all the other sounds of the wild. I just love it.”

OK, but here’s the deal: public recreational facilities like this – as well as the Waldo/Brookside Trolley Trail, the Leawood Greenway, the Katy Trail – don’t get done just because a bike club has a friend in government. That club has to have a friend in government, BUT willing to actually do some of the strenuous leg work in making it reality.

Kudos to Fuhrken – and especially to (mountain climber) Mike Sanders, Jackson County executive, and Michelle Newman, the director of Jackson County Parks and Recreation. They are they ones who really saw the need, and cared enough to do the heavy lifting.

And to all of those who complain, or worse, about the federal government’s efforts to make things better for ALL of us – well, I say to you … take a hike.

More than half the cost of the project, that has put a lot of smiles on a lot of people’s faces, came from stimulus funds.