Interconnected web of trails offers great view of fall foliage
By: Doug Kaufman
The air is crisp and cool, and even if fall colors are fading the time is right for bikers, walkers and skaters to come and explore all that West County trails have to offer.
On a recent cloudy afternoon, John Pyle, of Maryland Heights, pedaled his bicycle into the Sailboat Cove parking lot at Creve Coeur Park and rolled to a stop by his car.
Although the sunlight was mostly thwarted in its path toward earth, Pyle appeared to be having a great day. A post-renal transplant survivor who also suffered a heart attack in 2008, Pyle rides the trail system accessible from the park every day, following doctors’ orders to get lots of exercise and control his glucose level.
“The park has been fabulous for helping me keep that down,” Pyle said.
Pyle, 60, rides two-plus hours a day on various routes. He likes the interconnected trails provided by Great Rivers Greenway, including a 2.8-mile stretch from Creve Coeur Park to the Katy Trail in St. Charles. The trails are safe, easy to access and well-maintained, he said.
“I’m pretty pleased about what I’ve seen. … The trails are good – they’re not rough or washed out or anything like that,” he said. “The traffic is reasonably under control. They’ve got lots of nice parking areas.”
Pyle’s comments should be music to the ears of Susan Trautman, executive director of Great Rivers Greenway, the organization responsible for establishing many of the trails and greenways in the St. Louis and St. Charles areas.
“Our goal is to make St. Louis a better place to live,” Trautman said during the September meeting of civic organization Progress 64 West. “We’re really focused on getting people out and involved in the outdoors.”
GRG (grgstl.org) was created as a result of Proposition C, the “Clean Waters, Safe Parks and Community Trails” initiative passed in 2000. The ultimate goal of GRG is “The River Ring,” an interconnected system of trails in greenways, on-street bicycle routes and parks that will circle the St. Louis region and encompass a 600-mile web of more than 45 greenways.
Currently, GRG has 17 greenways in various stages of development and use. Each year since 2007, Trautman said, the organization has monitored usage on seven of those greenways, rotating which greenways are checked.
“Annually we’ve had more than one million visitors on each of those seven trails. … Extrapolate that to the 17 different greenways we’re working with and that’s a lot of use, a lot of people outside,” Trautman said.
“The improvements have been much appreciated,” said Barry Rinderknecht, of Wildwood, who frequently rides on local trails, both those that are part of GRG and those designed and maintained by local communities.
“I would hope that community planners would always be thinking about trails,” Rinderknecht said.
Trail users will be pleased to learn that in addition to more miles of greenways, GRG also has a plan in place to maintain its system.
“The model in recent years has been to build it and then turn it over,” Trautman said. “Chesterfield is a great example of a terrific partner – and Wildwood. In fact, all of the western municipalities in St. Louis County and St. Charles County are great partners. We build the facility and then turn it over to them.”
Some partners don’t have the same ability to maintain trails, so GRG is prepared to stay involved if necessary.
“What we’re looking at right now is developing a Greenway Conservation Corps, where we would work year-round with volunteers,” Trautman said. “We’d have sort of a small maintenance team and we would go out and shore (that) up. We might help with bush honeysuckle out here (in Chesterfield), but then on the riverfront trail or some other places where we’ve got some issues, we’d be doing a lot more significant work.”
Trautman said, as GRG was going through its update to its regional plan last year, “we really heard loud and clear – we can’t just build, we must also promote and sustain what we’re building.”