For about 20 years the Kansas City area has been working on piecemeal construction of MetroGreen, a two-state regional trails concept to protect stream corridors and use them for interlinked recreational trails.
Last year a task force of parks department leaders in Jackson County, co-chaired by Lee’s Summit’s Tom Lovell and Mark McHenry of Kansas City, got legislation through the Missouri General Assembly to potentially create a park district and sales tax in Jackson County to jump start construction.
But County Executive Mike Sanders was trying to put together a commuter rail plan, with a sales tax of its own, and was putting trails into the mix.
“We purposely delayed taking any action because of what the county was doing,” Lovell said.
This month Sanders announced he was dropping plans for an August election because the two railroads involved in the play, which owned corridors the rail projects would use, don’t agree on where the lines should end.
Lovell said the task force will be talking again about its next moves toward having its own election for the parks district. The results of Lee’s Summit April 2 election will give them a hint on what their next step might be. There isn’t a timetable for bringing the parks district forward at this time.
The parks district would need to be placed on the ballot by the Jackson County Legislature.
Lovell said a high priority is completing trails in the Rock Island corridor to provide a connection with the Katy Trail. Sections of trail in Pleasant Hill already are being prepared to link with Katy Trail State Park that ends in Clinton. The end would result would be an unbroken bike trail between Kansas City to nearly St. Louis.
The regional parks district would levy a one-tenth cent sales tax.
The money raised would devote 45 percent for the sales taxes to for regional trails with oversight from a district board made up of representatives from the county and cities. The remaining 55 percent for of proceeds for local and county parks and trails projects, with 40 percent of money being distributed back to cities based on their relative sales tax contributions.
The proposal allows for 5 percent of the regional trails money to be used for grants to non-profits or communities for expanding parks or trails and no more than 15 percent of the regional allocation could be used for project management and administration.
In Lee’s Summit, the local share would be used to help complete a 38-mile loop around the perimeter of the city and an connecting a 100-mile set of trails and roadways. Some routes will be off-road paths others would share the shoulders.
Steve Casey, Lee’s Summit Assistant Superintendent of Park Planning and Development said, the tax could help the city complete the loop that’s been planned for about 15 years, as well as about 100 miles of connecting trials. The network is gradually expanding as the city completes road projects. Some of it is under other jurisdictions, such as county parks.
The loop is about 15 to 20 percent complete and 30 to 40 percent of connectors are in use, he said.
The MetroGreen project would encompass about 648 miles of stream corridor trails, with 344 miles of roadway trails, and about 152 miles in abandoned rail corridors.