After Mission forfeits $1 million in grant money for Turkey Creek Trail, biking-walking advocates encourage residents to speak up

The Mission section of the Turkey Creek Trail would help complete a 10-mile route from Merriam to Kansas City, Kan. Photo via Metro Green Powerpoint presentation.
The Mission section of the Turkey Creek Trail would help complete a 10-mile route from Merriam to Kansas City, Kan. Photo via Metro Green Powerpoint presentation.

As the Mission City Council grapples with next year’s budget in the coming weeks, they’ll have to make a fresh decision on an issue that’s already caused considerable consternation among some councilors and biking and walking advocates in the city: whether to fund the Turkey Creek Trail after already giving back nearly $1 million in federal grant money for the project.

During the 2014 budget discussions last year, the council decided not to allocate the Capital Improvement Funds necessary to complete the Mission section of the Turkey Creek Trail, a ten-mile biking and pedestrian path planned to run from the southwest section of Merriam all the way north past the Rosedale Memorial Arch in Kansas City, Kan.

Originally started in 1992, the Merriam and Kansas City, Kan., portions of the trail are complete — and Mission was expected include funding for its part of the final section of the trail in its Capital Improvement Budget for 2014 with construction slated to start next year. However, the council voted note to include the necessary design costs for a 2015 construction start in its 2014 budget, scuttling the project.

When the council voted not to include that design money in its 2014 budget, it also forfeited the right to more than $1 million in grant money that would have offset a large part of the total cost of the project, estimated at approximately $2.3 million.

Trouble is, at least some on the council say they didn’t realize that the grant money had actually been awarded — and were upset when they found out that the city had returned nearly $1 million in federal funds for the project. Instead of being used for the Mission trail, $960,000 in federal matching funds for the project went to another project in Edwardsville, Kan. And $120,000 in funds from Johnson County’s Parks and Recreation department went away as well.

Recently departed city councilor Lawrence Andre used his final council meeting to express his frustration with the situation, saying the council was confused about the status of the matching funds. Andre said the council may have taken a different direction if they had understood that the federal funds would have to be returned if they didn’t allocate the money for the trails project last year.

At this point, the city has reapplied for grant money for the project, which would be awarded in 2017. But Mission city officials have encouraged the council to give them clear direction about their intent to allocate city funds for the rest of the cost of the project or not so they can withdraw their grant application if the council doesn’t intend to provide the needed city funding.

Eric Rogers of BikeWalk KC has been lobbying for people interested in seeing the trail built to make their voices heard.

“We want to get the information out there to Mission residents,” he said in an interview this spring. “This piece of trail in their community is important from a regional perspective. It gives Mission residents access to communities around them.”