The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 13, 2013

Jo Ellis: More venues for recreation among plans in Carthage

By Jo Ellis
Globe Columnist

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Along with the usual stormwater and street improvement projects, city officials are looking forward to bringing more recreational opportunities and aesthetics to Carthage in 2013.

City Administrator Tom Short said the city still is working with Vision Carthage to implement a plan produced by Drury University students to improve the core area of the Maple Leaf City and to take advantage of its connection to Route 66.

Just recently, the courthouse square was resurfaced and restriped. Talks are under way with artist Rachel Wilson to develop consistent entry signs for the city that would feature Carthage marble, the Route 66 logo and a maple leaf design.

Short said the city has around $20,000 earmarked for the signs, and the group hopes to raise additional funds through grants and by holding a competition, similar to the famous Cows on Parade in Chicago, to create maple leaf designs that could be auctioned to the highest bidder.

The City Council has authorized specifications to be drawn for a nine-hole disc golf course to be located at Kellogg Lake Park. Parks director Alan Bull said the proposal has received enthusiastic response from most everyone he has talked with, and that the sport is growing in popularity.

“It’s going to be low-profile,” Short said. “We’re also working on a single-track bike trail on Department of Transportation right of way running north on Garrison Avenue, beyond the Spring River bridge.”

The city owns part of the property adjacent to the right of way, and the remainder is privately owned. Short is hoping the city can acquire easements on the privately owned land as well.

He said the Missouri Department of Natural Resources is working with the city by providing trash bins for cleaning up the area. The land, known generally as Walnut Bottoms, has been plagued with illegal trash dumping in the past. Short said that in meetings with several bike groups, members have offered their help to clean up the area and assist with design and layout of the course.

It would be designed as a mountain bike trail, rather than a graveled path for normal street bikes, since the area is subject to flooding from Spring River.

“We’re trying to get the cleanup done this winter so it can be in use by next season,” Short said.

He said the city could benefit if it followed the example of Neosho, which has held mountain bike competitions that draw people from other areas. He predicted that a weekend competition could bring as many as 200 visitors to the city.

The 2013-14 budget plan will include money to hire the Drury students to do a plan for all the city parks, Short said, to be followed by a master plan to implement whatever steps are approved.

One city project that is going nowhere fast is the replacement of the “whee” bridge on Oak Street over the railroad tracks. When it was initiated, the project cost was set at $277,000, Short said. The tracks are owned by Union Pacific and leased by the Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad.

Because of the railroad’s demand that the height be increased and the property be extended to accommodate an extra track in the future, the current cost is estimated at almost $800,000. Even with some help from the Missouri Department of Transportation, the city’s budget for the project would cover only a third of the cost, Short said.

Still on the city’s agenda is the much-delayed south fire substation. Although a location has not been decided, Short said some preliminary ideas are being advanced to present to an architect.

In 2011, voters approved a quarter-cent sales tax with a 20-year sunset clause to fund Fire Department improvements. It adds about $400,000 to annual revenue.

Address correspondence to Jo Ellis, c/o The Joplin Globe, Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email news@joplinglobe.com.