River Bluff Hike and Bike Trails
In a few months, the new river bluff hike and bike trails will be open. The project, included in the 2019 Riverfront Master Plan, is a multi-modal trail system along the river bluff north of Highland Avenue and east of Waterworks Road. Presented to the Tourism Commission early this year, the project was well-received and approved by the board, and will be funded by the Transient Guest Tax approved by St. Joseph voters in 2011.
Staff has been working with local and regional mountain bike enthusiasts to ensure the trails not only provide opportunities for recreational biking and hiking, but also create trails that will offer competitive-level mountain bike opportunities which should draw mountain bikers from other parts of the country. The scope of the project suggests 10,000 lineal feet of recreational hike and bike trail with an additional 20,000 lineal feet of mountain bike specific trail. When complete, nearly six miles of new trails will be built. The anticipated location of the new trail is near where Cook Road would penetrate the bluffs to the new Highland Avenue pedestrian bridge on the south. The recreational hike and bike trail will feature a compacted chat rock material while the mountain bike trails will consist of compacted dirt, berms, jumps, rock and bridges. Even though much of the trail system is being created for mountain biking purposes, all trails will be available for public use.
This week, City Council officially approved the design/build contract with Ideker, Inc. who will be sub-contracting with Nomad Trails Development. Ideker, Inc. was chosen from four firms that submitted Statement of Qualifications for the project. The $1,550,000 project, upon completion, will ultimately end with the St. Joseph river bluff trail system being a destination for mountain bikers from all over the region.
A second phase will feature a pedestrian bridge spanning the bluffs north and south of Highland Avenue which will connect Wyeth Hill to the bluff trails. The estimated cost of that element of the project is $2,387,000.
This project not only delivers an aspect to the city that is part of the 2019 Riverfront Master Plan, but also touches on three of the five goals in the St. Joseph Parks, Recreation, & Civic Facilities Strategic Plan: 1) Maintain and Improve Existing Infrastructure; 2) Increase Recreational Opportunities; and 3) Identify Additional Funding Opportunities and Options. The success in completing this riverfront development project provides new recreational opportunities for citizens and also creates a significant tourism opportunity. The mountain biking community across the country is extremely loyal to the sport and the culture surrounding it. This group of people will travel and when they travel, they will enjoy other aspects of our city. More importantly, they will spend money in St. Joseph which will support the economy and create additional tax revenue which can be used to maintain and enhance.