By Jordan Wilkinson, Landscape Architect for DG2 Design
The St. Louis region is lucky enough to have passed a ballot proposition in 2000 which created a one tenth of one cent sales tax to fund the creation of new recreational trails and parks throughout our communities in St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and St. Charles County. A greenway is a broad term typically referring to a linear swath of land dedicated for the use of a designed trail, path, or park system. Great Rivers Greenway is the resulting organization that manages and develops the system of interconnected greenways known as “The River Ring”, in which the greenways generally follow the corridors of local rivers and water bodies. Sixteen years after passing this proposition, we have several completed greenways scattered across our metropolitan area providing great connections to the places we love and call home.
Greenways offer many benefits to a community and its citizens. Typically used by cyclists, walkers, and runners, greenways provide another route for citizens to use that offers a safe and beautiful alternative to driving a car down a crowded road. Our greenways are planned to connect parks and other local amenities such as transit stops and shopping centers. A good greenway not only connects its users to destinations, but also provides a connection to nature. With Great Rivers Greenways’ River Ring plan of greenways that follow stream and river corridors, there are many opportunities for users to see a sample of the unique local landscape around St. Louis. As Landscape Architects, greenway projects provide a great opportunity for us to introduce native landscapes, rain gardens, and pollinator areas which further reinforce a connection to nature. Another great benefit of having greenways within our communities is that they provide an outlet for recreation and exercise along every stretch of trail. Whether you want to ride your bicycle 16 miles down and back on Grant’s Trail on the Gravois Greenway, or just walk your dog for 20 minutes after work – greenways provide an endless abundance of different routes for several modes of transport. On a typical stroll along one of our area’s greenways you may see a group of cyclists training in full gear, a couple of rollerbladers enjoying the sunshine, and that one guy cruising down the trail on his recumbent bicycle. (Yes, those recumbent bicycles are goofy, but pretty cool. Look them up.)
With all of these perks right at outside our homes and workplaces why wouldn’t you want to go experience St. Louis via greenway? There are several exciting projects on deck to develop the greenway system even further, with some making some really big connections. Specifically, our office is proud to be the lead designers for the extension of Grant’s Trail on the Gravois Greenway. This project will extend the existing greenway nearly 2 miles to tie into the existing River des Peres greenway in South St. Louis City. This new connection will come to the joy of many cyclists who currently reach the end of the trail at the Orlando’s trailhead and have no option but to turn around. We are also partnering with Burns & McDonnell Engineers to plan for an extension of the River des Peres greenway from the Metrolink station north more than a mile to Francis R. Slay Park.
Greenways help to create healthier environments and places while increasing our collective quality of life. Greenways also help to create destinations in our communities that attract visitors as well. So how about it? Go use your greenways! Let’s use these greenways and see St. Louis. After all, our tax dollars help to pay for them!