Keep Kansas City Beautiful’s Lowe’s/KAB Community Improvement Spotlight Project successfully strengthened the partnership and collaboration between existing Kansas City conservation organizations working on individual goals by combining their missions and expertise to build a five-mile, single-track trail between the Swope Park wilderness trail system through an urban forest to the Blue River Glades wilderness trail system two miles south, while concurrently removing thick stands of invasive exotic shrub honeysuckle to improve the forest’s health and create a more beautiful trail corridor. Project Partners included Keep Kansas City Beautiful (coordination, litter abatement), Kansas City WildLands (focusing on natural area restoration), Earth Riders Trails Association (focusing on wilderness hike/bike trails), Missouri Department of Conservation, Kansas City Parks and Recreation and Jackson County Parks and Recreation (natural resource and land managers of the Project site). In addition to building trail, the Project included removing thick stands of invasive shrub honeysuckle that choked out the woodland’s biodiversity and created visual barriers along the trail corridors.
Over 200 volunteers from schools, neighborhoods and corporations participated in a series of workdays that addressed litter and dump-site cleanup, invasive shrub honeysuckle removal along the trail corridor, and the flagging, cutting and finishing of single-track trail from Swope Park to Blue River Glades (approximately eight miles of trail corridor total). Engaging so many volunteers in the trail-cutting and honeysuckle removal over several workdays served not only to provide the labor-intensive work involved (work that is beyond the resource capacity of budget-confined Parks Departments), but also to connect these volunteers to the land through education and hands-on work, resulting in the long term sustainability of the project through new committed stakeholders.
By connecting the Swope Park and Blue River Glades wilderness areas via new trail (and significantly increasing the contiguous length of trail), and by removing thick stands of invasive shrub honeysuckle from the trail corridor, the project’s partners have provided an important venue for Kansas City urban and suburban citizens to connect to a healthy natural wild place, and to find their “sense of place” within the city. We believe the connector trail/woodland restoration is now safer for hiking and biking. We hope the healthier and more aesthetically-pleasing public forest and accessible trail will engage and inspire Kansas City citizens for decades to come!