Mission City Council tables decision on accepting Turkey Creek Trail design grant funding

Mission City Councilor Amy Miller points to a map of the Turkey Creek Trail during discussion Wednesday. Miller has been consistently opposed to extension of the trail through Mission.
Mission City Councilor Amy Miller points to a map of the Turkey Creek Trail during discussion Wednesday. Miller has been consistently opposed to extension of the trail through Mission.

The possibility of a Turkey Creek Trail extension through Mission is still in limbo after the Mission City Council tabled a proposal to approve the city’s commitment of matching funds for a design and preliminary engineering study of the trail.

The city was awarded a competitive grant in December for $69,570 which needed to be matched by $39,000 of city money. In order to move forward with the trail study, which has been a topic for the city for years, the city needs to make a formal commitment of its funding. Recently, the city learned that it may be required to pay back the grant amount if it does not proceed with construction in 10 years. City staff have suggested allocating $8,700 annually for eight years to fund against that possibility.

Councilor Pat Quinn, who supported the trail at a recent committee meeting, made the motion to table the grant consideration. Quinn said he had walked part of the trail since then. “I think there is a lot I don’t understand. I would like to see this tabled to get more information.” Councilor Jennifer Cowdry, who also agreed to move the vote from committee to council, spoke negatively about the trail, calling it a “regional plan” and questioning use of Mission taxpayer dollars going for “one mile” of trail.

The most vocal supporter for the study and the trail on the council has been Dave Shepard who Wednesday said questions about the trail raised by other councilors pointed out the need for the study, which would determine a best route and a construction price. “(It) is exactly why you need a study to figure out where it will go,” Shepard said. “Until we have a design and a price tag, we are never going to move off this conversation.” Shepard reiterated his comments that the trail “is in the best interest of the community” and an element in building a “world-class community.”

“I am not a supporter of this,” said Councilor Amy Miller. She raised questions about the trail being in a flood plain and how that would affect maintenance, She also said the trail would not connect because Overland Park and Kansas City, Kan., have not completed their portions. City administrator Laura Smith told the council that Overland Park will complete a remaining short section to the city limit connection at I-635 once Mission constructs its portion. KDOT, she said, would not allow the Overland Park section to dead-end in the state right-of-way.

The Mission section is designed to be a small part of the 10-mile trail running from south Merriam to the state line. The Merriam portion also is complete. Councilor Debbie Kring, however, raised a safety question about a section of the Merriam trail on surface sidewalks. Most of the Merriam miles are on dedicated trail along the stream.

Former Mission City Councilor Lawrence Andre appeared before the council to support the trail. “This is a project that contributes to the quality of life,” Andre said. “This will have a positive legacy. I think it is a good project.” Referring to a past council decision to turn back a $1 million grant for trail construction, Andre said, “I still regret being part of a decision to not get that done.”