ARPA funding helps Ozark clear hurdle in extending Chadwick Flyer Trail towards Springfield

Published: Apr. 18, 2023 at 7:24 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2023 at 9:16 PM CDT
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OZARK, Mo. (KY3) - The Springfield metro area has more than 110 miles of walking and biking trails. And now, a significant plan to build a trail that connects Ozark and Springfield has taken a big step forward thanks to federal funding from the American Rescue Plan.

Thousands of people enjoy the area’s trails, whether doctor’s orders, the dog’s desire for a walk, or just a chance to clear their mind and commune with nature. On Tuesday, Angie Templeton and her two-year-old Australian Shepherd Suzie are enjoying the trails in and around the Ozark Community Center in Ozark.

“We’re just walking and enjoying the day,” Templeton said. “At home, around my neighborhood, there are no sidewalks. So this is out of the way of the traffic, and we can really relax and enjoy the river. Suzie likes to go swimming.”

The Ozark Community Center is also the trailhead for the south portion of the Chadwick Flyer Trail, which starts underneath Jackson Street in Ozark and heads north towards Springfield.

The trail was once the railroad route for a train known as the Chadwick Flyer, which transported timber and railroad ties produced in Christian County for railroad expansion to the west. The Chadwick Flyer made frequent trips carrying cargo and passengers between Springfield and Chadwick, Missouri, and the name “Flyer” was used as a joke because the train’s top speed was just 10 miles per hour. The majority of the Chadwick railway was abandoned after the great depression.

The idea of using the old railroad path as a pedestrian trail has been ongoing for years involving many different groups and organizations. Finding the funding for the project has been a major challenge, and even determining the cost is difficult because of inflation and supply chain issues. While only a small portion of the trail has been developed for use, and no timetable has been set yet for completion, the project’s eventual goal is to develop a biking and walking trail from Ozark’s Finley Farms to Springfield’s downtown square.

For now, though, the work is concentrating on about 7.5 miles from the Ozark Community Center to the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in south Springfield, where it would meet up with the Galloway Trail.

“The very fact that we’re trying to build a linear greenway trail from downtown Ozark to downtown Springfield means that we’re going to have some obstacles along the way,” pointed out Ozark City Administrator Steve Childers. “One of those obstacles is U.S. 65 and how we are going to get over that.”

U.S. 65, a major north-south corridor of car traffic, is an obstacle that the trail would have to traverse to link Ozark to Springfield, and solving the problem has been expensive and challenging.

But one of the biggest roadblocks in getting the trail finished was overcome when the city of Ozark received $1.179 million in American Rescue Act (ARPA) funding to build a pedestrian overpass across the highway.

As of now, there is no safe route over Highway 65, and the $1.1 million awarded by the Missouri Department of Economic Development as part of its tourism development program will go toward the $3.75 million total cost for the project. Other funding has also been secured for the Highway 65 structure.

“We’ve got $1.5 million coming from the Ozark Transportation Organization, which also received ARPA funding,” Childers said. “Then there’s $375,000 each from the city of Ozark and Christian County. We fell a little short of getting all we needed, but we’re currently working on filling that gap by looking at other funding opportunities, and we’re very optimistic.”

“The Chadwick Flyer Trail is the fulfillment of a regional vision established with the Trail Investment Study in 2017,” said Sara Fields, the Executive Director of the Ozarks Transportation Organization. “It’s exciting to see the region using partnerships to invest in an asset that will attract visitors to our region as we seek to expand our trail network as a destination and way to display our outdoor amenities and history that make the Ozarks a great place to call home. We are excited to be able to add another piece of this trail to our expanding network.”

City, county, and regional collaboration made the award possible.

“On behalf of the City of Ozark, we would like to thank Governor Parson and the Missouri Department of Economic Development for the opportunity to pursue these funds,” Childers said. “We also thank Ozark Greenways, the Ozarks Transportation Organization, the Christian County Commission, Show Me Christian County, and the Springfield Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau for their work to make this application successful.”

“We’re beyond thrilled that this trail will connect Ozark and Springfield,” said Kristen Haseltine, president & CEO of Show Me Christian County. “While this overpass will be built in Ozark, the Chadwick Flyer Trail will be a huge asset for the county, contributing to our already robust lineup of outdoor recreation opportunities and assets.”

The city of Ozark is one of 26 statewide recipients of the ARPA funds supporting tourism projects. By getting a crossing from the east side of Highway 65 to the west side of U.S. 65, planning can now begin on extending the trail northwards towards the Missouri Veterans Cemetery.

“In that phase we’ve got the money, we haven’t built it, but we’re getting all the easements and right-of-ways right now,” Childers said.

As you can probably tell this is a massive project with a lot of moving parts, so even the 7.5-mile stretch of the trail that includes parts of Christian and Greene Counties doesn’t have a definite finish date yet. So there might be a lot of people wondering why all this time and money is being spent on trails.

“Well, we don’t have a completion date for the current stretch of trails because phases 1, 2 and 3 are inside the city of Ozark while phases 4, 5 and 6 are outside the city,” Childers said. “So we’re working with a lot of different partners with some of us coming from the south and some of us coming from the north and meeting in the middle. You’ve also got the planning project they’re working on around Lake Springfield with what they want to do about utilizing the land around the old power plant. What we’re doing is key to that plan. Just think about all that planning around Lake Springfield and if we could connect that to Ozark and the Finley River. You’d just be providing such a great regional recreational opportunity and quality of life amenity that a lot of areas just wish they could have. And we’re doing it. Just like the success of trail-building in northwest Arkansas we know that this is an eco-tourism driver and we believe that the connectivity of our communities is very important to achieving economic development success in the region.”

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