Kayla McCollum: Connectivity is not just about trails, but about community

Kayla McCollum

True inclusion means being missed. When you cannot make it to an event or activity, or you’re not seen during a regular trip to the supermarket, it’s noticeable. Connecting to others is the truest way to build a sense of community and inclusion among all residents.

The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Trails & Connectivity Work Group, while seeking to develop and expand trails and routes physically across our region, is also charged with enhancing connectivity.

Connectivity can be a bit more abstract, beyond connecting trails and rideable/walkable streets. The connection we have to our community is contingent upon interests, but is also based on our ability to access our community when needed and to develop those interests. Too often we rely on vehicles and other motorized transportation as our only means of access, and this means is not always an option or the ideal form of transportation for many of our residents.

Safe trails, bike routes and walking routes lend to a system that can be used to reach employment, participate in local cultural events, run errands, and to be seen and engaged with neighborhoods and the broader community. One becomes engaged with his or her surroundings when walking or riding on the trail or down a street. In this, the nuances of the neighborhood can be recognized, businesses and activities become more familiar, and you can connect with others in ways you cannot accomplish when sitting in a car with the windows up. When I ride my bicycle down the Frisco Trail and I see the same faces walking their dogs, jogging or jumping their bicycle onto an off-trail route, the familiarity creates a sense of communion and responsibility for the trail.

The Joplin Trails & Connectivity group’s broad vision of a regional network includes a variety of goals, ranging from linking our area to surrounding cities to developing safe and accessible trails and paths among homes, businesses and leisure within our community. Recently, the group volunteered with the Joplin Trails Coalition during its Mother Road Bicycle Tour, and we will be partnering with the Downtown Joplin Alliance for the Joplin Bike Downtown Sidewalk Sale on July 27.

Goals for our group include continued volunteering with area organizations sharing a similar mission, educating the region on bicycle safety, accessing funding for development, and assisting in the development of bicycling programs for children. There is more to come as we grow and expand to meet the needs of those in our region to promote inclusion, enhance connectivity, and develop more accessible walkable and rideable paths.

And now, a call to action. The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce has previously managed work groups to develop the personal and professional growth of its young professionals. Recently, the chamber shifted the focus of these work groups to the growth of the community using the Young Professionals Network to evoke change in areas we believe will enhance Joplin. With this shift, there is an open call for others to join in our cause.

Trails & Connectivity is one of six Livability Work Groups charged with supporting the area in this change. Other workgroups are:

• Cultural Enterprise.

• Health & Wellness.

• Diversity & Inclusion.

• Professional Development.

• Giving Back.

The groups were developed from identified needs through chamber conversations with area residents and businesses. These needs include: the health of our residents, the technological development of our commerce, offerings of leisure, and enhancing our diversity. All members of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce and/or employees of chamber members can join a work group, and we hope to see some new faces soon. We encourage involvement and any insight in how we can better contribute to current initiatives.

To become involved or learn more about the Trails & Connectivity goals or any other Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Livability Work Group, please contact kaymccollum@gmail.com, co-chair of Trails & Connectivity, or visit Joplincc.com/workgroups.

Kayla McCollum is a member of the Young Professionals Network of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.