Council hears plan for Cape Trail changes

Thursday, November 22, 2012
A couple takes a leisurely walk through Cape Woods on the Cape LaCroix Recreational Trail Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

Blind curves made safer, a widened path, increased and improved signage and an updated appearance all could be part of improvements to the city's popular walking and biking trail should a proposed master plan make its way through the Cape Girardeau City Council.

Parks and recreation director Julia Thompson earlier this week presented to council members a set of recommendations that make up a Cape LaCroix Trail master plan. About 100 people provided input on the trail, and with the aid of a consultant, the city used their ideas to devise the plan. Thompson said improvements would be funded by the approximately $70,000 per year that goes toward the trail from revenue generated by a parks and stormwater tax approved in 2008 by voters.

Grant and sponsorship money also could play a role if the council approves the plan as-is. Council members, however, shared their personal suggestions for improvements and changes Monday after Thompson's presentation. Thompson said parks staff would continue to develop the plan before sending it to the council for final approval in the coming months.

With construction beginning in 1993, the trail now is nearly five miles long; the most recent section, in the northwestern section of the city, is near completion.

The plan, as proposed, identifies several changes to areas Thompson referred to as "deficiencies." They include the trail's narrow width at bridge underpasses, potentially hazardous safety rails and bridge abutments, limited visibility at curves, a shortage of clear signage for easy use of the trail and a lack of access to restroom facilities as well as drinking water and other amenities for people and pets.

Short-term improvements include additional signage that essentially would provide the trail its own "brand," addition of features such as a rest stop and node-type play area for children, structures to provide shade and more lighting benches and water fountains. Beyond that, more costly improvements that may take longer to implement include widening the entire trail to 12 feet from its current width of eight feet, replacing bridges and removing and replacing trail retaining walls that create blind curves.

Branding would include the addition of trailhead columns at intersections with roadways, kiosks with maps and other information, mile markers, warning signs indicating upcoming curves or intersections and other signage. The design of the proposed signage is based on other wayfinding signs recently installed throughout the city. Thompson said branding the trail with cohesive signage throughout would make it more user-friendly.

"If you've been on the trail a couple of times, you know where you are going. But if you are trying to attract new people, you need to make it clear to them where things begin and end and what they'll find along the way, and make it to where they feel comfortable using the trail," she said, adding that a center stripe would be added to the trail.

Other potential plan inclusions would be the creation of loop trails that connect to the main trail in Arena Park and near Shawnee Park Center and Osage Centre and additional plantings, some of which already have been installed through the city's Go Green committee, according to Thompson.

Council suggestions

Councilman John Voss asked Thompson about bringing the amenities of the trail to other parts of the city.

"I think what we've got here is great, and I want to move forward with that, but it also almost feels like we're giving a Cadillac to this trail and we don't have a trail for the rest of our community," he said. "If you look at the map, there's a whole quadrant of our city that is just missing."

Thompson said assistant city manager Kelly Green and her staff have been looking at the city's pedestrian routes holistically, including exploring the possibility of connecting the trail to city-owned property on the north side near the Mississippi River. She suggested that the city continually consider non-traditional locations to place trails as planning is underway for other city projects such as stormwater connections and roadways.

Councilman Mark Lanzotti said he favored the idea of a widened trail, especially the section of the trail that runs from Route W to south of Arena Park.

"That's a high-use area, and also an area where a lot of people like to ride their bikes fast and where a lot of people like to have a stroll," Lanzotti said, adding he also would like to see additional restroom facilities near the parks and completion of a section of the trail that would connect it from near Shawnee Park Center to the pedestrian trail along the Mississippi Riverfront.

Councilwoman Kathy Swan suggested adding signage along the trail's Cape Woods section to inform about the nature in the area.

ragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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