Roeland Park advances plan to bring mountain bike, hiking trail to Nall Park

Urban Trail Co. crews at work on the Blue-Swope connector trail in 2014. Photo via Facebook.
Urban Trail Co. crews at work on the Blue-Swope connector trail in 2014. Photo via Facebook.

By Jerry LaMartina

Roeland Park is moving ahead on a plan for a proposed 1- to 1.5-mile biking and walking trail at Nall Park and on a master plan for R Park.

At a workshop on Monday, City Council members authorized City Administrator Keith Moody to proceed with work on developing a trail easement on part of a wooded ravine on Nall Park’s east side, which is owned by The Boulevard Apartments. Securing the easement is contingent on support for the trail’s design from the council and the apartment complex’s owners, who have expressed support for the concept generally.

The proposed trail was discussed at a community forum in January 2016, along with discussions about a proposed layout for R Park and city branding efforts.

At the Monday workshop, Brett Shoffner, central regional director for the nonprofit Urban Trail Co., made a presentation on the trail plan for Nall Park and said the organization was ready to move forward as soon as the council was. Urban Trail has designed and built more than 110 miles of trails in the Kansas City area since 2001.

Urban Trail and the city’s Parks Committee are inviting volunteers to help remove litter and invasive honeysuckle from the park starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12. Nall Park is at 48th Street and Nall Avenue.

Moody said building the trail would cost an estimated $12,000, and legal and surveying work to develop the easement would cost an additional $3,000.

Urban Trail would build the trail using paid contractors and volunteer labor. The trail would conform to U.S. Forest Service and International Mountain Bike Association sustainable trail standards.

Urban Trail would maintain the trail in exchange for holding one event a year on the property. The organization carries $2 million in liability insurance for each of its trails used by bikers and hikers, Shoffner said.

Ward 3 Councilman Ryan Kellerman asked Moody if the city had taken the project out to bid. Moody said the city hadn’t because “that $15,000 budget would be dramatically more if you were hiring somebody to go out there and do it,” and he reminded Kellerman that this aspect of the project had been discussed at prior workshops.

In a written cost estimate for the trail that Urban Trail provided to the city, the organization said that, based on the number of volunteer hours required to build a trail, it sets a standardized cost of $7.60 per linear foot of trail—$40,000 per trail mile, or $60,000 for a 1.5-mile trail.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Becky Fast said that when she proposed the project to the council last year, “we had a lengthy discussion that this is primarily a volunteer operation.” The Boulevard’s owners “are extremely excited about it” because they have a newly remodeled fitness center, fitness activities and fitness trainers, “so they see this as right in line with healthy living, healthy community that they want to offer to their (tenants).”

“We’re not paying staff,” Fast said. “This is more for operating the machines. There’s no way we could get this anywhere else.”

Also at the Monday workshop, Parks Chair Jennifer Provyn gave a presentation on the master plan for R Park, at 5535 Juniper Drive. Provyn summarized changes at the park since 2014 and cited a 2016 city survey in which parks ranked second in the importance-satisfaction rating and second among areas that should receive the most emphasis from city leaders in the next two years. Respondents indicated that what they most wanted for R Park were shade structures, permanent restrooms and new tennis courts.

The Citizens Fundraising Initiative has raised about $101,500 for the park through donations, fundraisers, grants and in-kind services. The value of volunteer time contributed was estimated at nearly $35,000, and unreimbursed expenses totaled nearly $7,800, for a total fundraising value of about $144,250.

“This kind of quality product hasn’t been seen ever in the committee, so it’s amazing,” Mayor Joel Marquardt said. “I fully endorse it. I do think at some point we’re going to want a more adult-concentrated area (included in the park).”

The project is scheduled to come before the council at its Feb. 20 meeting.

An overhead view showing the proposed route of the Nall Park trail is below: