I happen to be in St. Joseph, Missouri, today. The NFL playoffs brought me to town to visit old friends. We arrived early and I decided to take a hike along the City’s Urban Trails. The scenery is spectacular in Winter. But the scenery points out the enigma of St. Joseph Leadership. Check out the bridge over the creek running along the Parkway System.
This bridge is condemned. The picture was take from the new passage over an enclosed culvert. The bridge is located at Walnut Street and the Parkway. I checked a map and would say that it is just southeast of the center of town. Pretty neat. A beautiful country scene right in the middle of a city.
The picture to the right is from the other side of the same bridge – taken from the walking trail. It struck me as strange that a city would have the foresight to invest millions of dollars in a beautiful and functional Urban Trail and then condemn a beautiful old bridge. The cost of the culvert and new paved road could not have exceeded the cost of bridge repair. I looked around the neighborhood and cannot imagine that this is a major arterial street. This narrow bridge would hardly create a traffic bottleneck. Such is the nature of limited visionary leadership. The Parks Director appears to be visionary while the Street Department struggles with imagination.
Along the trail is an example of man’s impact on the environment. This manhole cover radiates heat from the deep warm environment of rats and raccoons. That might sound strange but in semi-urban areas like small cities in northwest Missouri the sewers share the tenants of raccoons, opossum, and a variety of rats. What are you gonna do?
The Urban Trail follows the ancient fifteen mile Parkway System in St. Joseph. This Parkway is the result of some visionary leadership of many generations past. It is as scenic as any natural wonder in the State of Missouri.
Along the Parkway is the Fairview Municipal Golf Course. A couple of hundred acres of urban green space with the added benefit of sport activity by local residents is a winning formula for any municipality.
Local church groups have volunteered to help keep the parkway clean and neat. People who believe in evolution, science, and global warming oddly couple with a church noted for denying science, evolution, and global warming. A beautiful landscape seems to overcome the differences between the faiths. The yard sign on the left states “Mission Maniacs of Wesley United Methodist Church.” The picture at the right assumes the 7th Day Adventist Church. We hear they are very active in the St. Joseph area. In the upper left of the 7th Day picture is a hardball field used by local high schools. It is adapted in the summer to accommodate a vigorous adult softball program. St. Joseph is definitely a baseball town.
As we progress south along the trail from Walnut street we are blessed with solitude – we walk safely along a creek bed while enjoying a variety of trees. Someone, we presume the visionary Park Department, has graciously plowed the snow from the Urban Trail. I walked about a mile along the Trail on a cold Sunday Morning and saw no less that twelve other people – some walking, some jogging, and some walking their dogs. Few leaves of green and no red roses – but I was thinking “What a Wonderful World.” (Thank you Louie Armstrong).
I almost missed another old bridge. The St. Joseph Parkway continues to employ several old bridges – they look like they may have been projects from the Works Progress Administration of the Depression Era Roosevelt Administration. Remember, these pictures are taken near the center of St. Joseph. The city has assets beyond what many cities offer. The picture of the bridge on the right was take from the urban trail.
The Parks Department again demonstrated their vision with a stretching area at 28th Street. The stretching area does not seem to get much use in the Winter. My friends here in town seemed surprised at my amazement – they take the Parkway and Urban Trail for granted. It seems that way. People generally do not appreciate the wonders of their own community.
I am told that St. Joseph turned down a school levy and bond program last spring. The levy was a continuation of a previous levy with a five year sunset. The bond issue was intended to build two new schools – both to replace older buildings and to accommodate the city’s population shift to the east.
St. Joseph strikes me as most communities might – A few visionary leaders struggling to bring a reluctant community along on the ride into the future.
A one mile walk along an Urban Trail can tell much about a community.