Ruby Jack

Joplin Trails Coalition members walk the Ruby Jack Trail. Globe file

In this weekly feature, we put five questions before someone in the community. Today, we chat with Paul Teverow and Robert Herbst, with the Joplin Trails Coalition.

1. What’s the primary goal of the Joplin Trails Coalition?

Our primary goal is to complete, improve and maintain our two rail-trails: the 3.5-mile Frisco Greenway and 16-mile Ruby Jack trails. We also continue to work with local governments and other civic groups to improve facilities for nonmotorized transport in Southwest Missouri.

2. Why are local trails important to a community?

Bicycle and pedestrian trails can offer a number of benefits to a community. A safe space where people can walk, run or bike at their convenience can offset some of the negative impacts that sedentary lifestyles and too much screen time have had on physical and mental health. We’re sure that your readers include people who exercise more than they used to because of the availability of our trails. Certainly, trail usage has increased over the years, most dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic of the past couple of years, because outdoor exercise is one of the safest, most affordable and beneficial activities you can do outside the home.

Trails can also connect people safely to businesses, work, school and churches. Trails can strengthen a community by providing a place where people can meet and make friends, and provide a safe facility for parents to teach kids how to ride a bike. Many small businesses and nonprofit organizations hold events on the trails to raise money and provide fun community-building activities. In short, trails improve the livability of communities.

3. The Joplin Trails Coalition is wrapping up its 30th year in the community. What are some of your achievements over the past 30 years?

Certainly, at the top of our list are the completion of the Frisco Greenway Trail and of almost all the Ruby Jack Trail. People can now bike or walk safely from downtown Joplin to downtown Webb City and from Carthage to Oronogo and Carl Junction. None of this would have been possible without the support we have received from local governments, businesses, individuals and civic groups, and without the volunteer labor provided by area Scout troops, church and youth groups, and college organizations.

We’re also proud to have supported the development of other public trails, starting with Joplin’s Campbell Parkway Trail, perhaps the first recreational trail in the area. We’re also proud of and grateful for the volunteers who turn out for trail construction and maintenance projects.

4. How has the Joplin Trails Coalition changed over the past three decades?

We started as a small group of mainly Joplin residents who wanted to work on ways of making it safer for people to walk and bike to popular destinations. Our focus changed when the Rails to Trails Conservancy made us aware of opportunities, first in 1991 and then in 2001, to develop recreational trails along inactive rail corridors. As a result, we also changed from being a mainly Joplin-based to a regional organization. But since we were already chartered as Joplin Trails Coalition, we’ve kept the name.

Our membership has grown from a couple of dozen dues-paying members to now over 80, and through our email list, website and Facebook, we keep in touch with hundreds more of our supporters. We used to rely on phone messages and emails to organize trail maintenance work. Now we have a pool of dozens of volunteers. Some of them take responsibility for maintaining sections of the Frisco or Ruby Jack. Others turn out when we text notices or post updates on our JTC Volunteers Facebook page about trail construction or maintenance projects.

5. What are some upcoming projects for the group?

Thanks to feedback received at a recent meeting, we have prioritized several upcoming projects. There are a couple of spots on the Frisco Greenway where we will be improving the surface. We also need to reinforce one of the Frisco bridges in Webb City. We’ll be adding and compacting a new layer of crushed limestone on the roughly 1.5 miles of the Ruby Jack between County Road 200 and Highway D.

Many of your readers knew Dr. Robert McDermid, a retired MSSU psychology professor who was killed in a tragic auto accident in June. Because Bob regularly used and helped maintain the Frisco Greenway Trail, his family and friends have donated a bench to be placed along the trail in his memory. Before long, we hope to announce where and when the bench will be installed.

We’re frequently asked if we plan to connect the Frisco Greenway and Ruby Jack trails. While it’s true that they’re only a couple of miles apart, connecting them involves some significant challenges. First, we’d need to site the route and set aside land for the connection. Also, we’d need to get across Center Creek because the County Road 230 bridge is not wide enough to accommodate both motor vehicles and bicycles. Recently, we have been working with Webb City to develop a safe route that would take the trail to Center Creek. If we can accomplish that much, we’ll need significant additional public support to fund the project and to build a Center Creek crossing.

Finally, as volunteer hours and resources permit, we’ll be clearing the westernmost 2 miles of the Ruby Jack, which have yet to be surfaced.

If you enjoy using the trails, please consider becoming a member by going to https://www.joplintrailscoalition.org/contribute.

Although our dues year begins in June, anyone who joins now will remain a member in good standing through May 2023. Most of our trail maintenance work involves just a couple of hours, usually on the first Saturdays of winter months. You can join our network of volunteers at https://www.facebook.com/groups/483280338966111.

Robert Herbst is the president and Paul Teverow is the secretary of the Joplin Trails Coalition.

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