April 14, 2011

Local Groups Looking to Take Big Step for Walkers

A coalition of community groups is taking shape to try to locate funding to improve sidewalks and enhance walking exercise opportunities for Scotland County residents. A joint effort between the City of Memphis, the Scotland County R-I School District, the Tiger Trail Committee and the Scotland County Health Department is underway to pursue available grant funding for upgrades for local walking venues.

The health department currently is pursuing a $270,000 grant through the Missouri Foundation for Health. The proposal, if funded, would provide material and labor to build sidewalks connecting to the SCR-I School District.

The City of Memphis entered a memorandum of understanding with the health department related to the grant application. Under the agreement, the city would offer engineering oversight as well as the authority to install the sidewalks as well as proposed upgrades to the Tiger Trail walking area on the school grounds.

The city would also agree to provide additional road tubes and labor to install in locations where the new sidewalks would intersect streets.

Superintendent Roy Monroe noted that the city has been working with the Northeast Missouri Resource Conservation & Development Council, Inc. on plans to upgrade sidewalks in town.

As part of the grant process, the city agreed to work with the University of Missouri Extension and NEMO RPC and the Scotland County Commission to draft a comprehensive policy for livable streets.

"For years and years, streets have been designed for vehicular traffic," Monroe said. "During this time, pedestrians' needs have basically been ignored. The Livable Streets program is working to expand traffic routes to include options for non-vehicular use."

If the grant funding is received, the parties indicated it could mean the creation of a series of sidewalks that could connect the school campus to the city square. Ultimately the goal of the project is to provide a complete sidewalk system allowing access to major public facilities such as healthcare sites, the library, and the swimming pool as well as shopping opportunities such as the grocery store and the pharmacy.

The efforts are being made in conjunction with similar attempts to procure funding to upgrade the Tiger Trail.

Laurie Jack of the health department indicated that grant funding is being sought to improve the walking area, predominantly in the form of a paved walking surface. Other proposed upgrades would include lighting, erosion control and possible future expansion.

The school district has agreed to continue to provide access to the land as well as performing mowing. The city has offered the use of equipment, on an availability basis to help hold materials for upgrade projects as well as following cleanup efforts.

Jack stated the grant applications are nearing completion, with the groups hoping to learn later this summer if funding has been approved.

The city with the aid of the NEMO RC&D has been seeking similar project funding from available sources including the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The council has already agreed to earmark unspent public sidewalk funding for the creation of new walkways on city grounds, such as at Johnson Park. The city annually budgets $10,000 as part of an incentive program for the creation of private sidewalks and curb and guttering. Those funds are used to reimburse half the cost of curb and guttering, and also offer $1.50 per square foot reimbursement for new sidewalk construction.

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