My running renaissance has improved my physical fitness, but it’s also reminded me of my hometown’s Achilles heel. Like many things in Independence, the challenge for runners isn’t the availability of suitable strips for their pastime; it’s their promotion and accessibility.
True to my j-school training, I decided to catalog resources for Independence runners. I found two helpful connections:
n Independence Trail Guide – The guide, which is available in print in local bookstores and online at www.ci.independence.mo.us/userdocs/parksandrec/TrailguideWeb.pdf, is jointly published by the Independence Department of Parks and Recreation, the Independence Health Department and the Healthy Independence Coalition.
Primarily aimed at walkers, it details 25 trails – most less than a mile in length – and includes helpful tips and a record-keeping log. It’s been a handy reference as I’ve reinstated my running regimen.
n City of Independence Parks and Recreation Web site – The city parks and recreation Web site hyperlinks to the Independence Trail Guide and offers a helpful trail locator map. You can find it at ci.independence.mo.us/parksandrec/trailsmap.aspx.
There are a few posts on running Web sites – most referencing the Little Blue Trace Trail, Eastern Jackson County’s golden highway – but little more. The scant collection of information left me wondering why the Queen City of the Trails hasn’t done a better job collecting and disseminating details to and advocating for longer, more accessible routes for runners.
Norman Swails, my fundraising mentor, taught me to present a problem and its solution. What follows is my answer to the dearth of information and routes for Independence runners.
I think the city of Independence should create the Eastern Jackson County Trail. The Little Blue Trace Trail, running south for 13 miles from Blue Mills Road to Lee’s Summit Road, could serve as its eastern line. And the collection of western Independence trails detailed in the Independence Trail Guide could be knitted together – like the Rock Creek Trail project, which is detailed at www.ci.independence.mo.us/parksandrec/displaydetails.aspx?id=293 – to form its western line.
With a survey of Eastern Jackson County’s natural beauty on the east and its history on the west, all that would remain uncharted for a running trail pioneer are northern and southern connectors to the eastern and western lines. Which is where a fundraisers creativity comes in handy.
Like the Truman Historic Walking Tour, which is detailed at www.indepmo.org/comdev/HP_WalkingTours_Truman.aspx, the Eastern Jackson County Trail could take advantage of local roadways, guiding its users with common signage designed to make way finding easy. The focus would be on combining existing routes for greater ultimate benefit, not on creating new ones.
Like all good things, blazing the Eastern Jackson County Trail will take work and dedication. The Little Blue Trace Trail isn’t finished; the southernmost strip from Interstate 70 to Lee’s Summit Road will be completed this winter. Existing western trails need to be pieced together. The northern and southern east-west connectors need to be plotted. And public and private approvals, along with common signage, need to be secured.
Write [email protected] if you want to help create the Eastern Jackson County Trail. Like running a new route for the first time, crossing the finish line makes the known and unknown challenges worthwhile.