The Greenways of the Ozarks, Springfield, MO

When the stresses of everyday life become too much for us, a great escape is taking a walk or bike ride. Often, this is all you need to calm your nerves and restore your mind to a state of peacefulness.

Fortunately, for Sprinfieldians, the City Park System is restoring and managing greenways as part of our everyday enjoyment. Greenways usually run through urban areas, and protect undeveloped areas of natural habitat. Most often they will be hard-surfaces paths with minimal grade to provide perfect access for walkers, joggers, bicyclists, skaters, and wheelchairs.

These greenways not only grant beauty and tranquility, but promotes fitness, family fun, safety, habitat for wildlife, and they improve water quality by protecting floodplanes from urban development. In Springfield, MO, a non-profit organization called Ozarks Greenways works hard to preserve and beautify these walking and bicycling paths for the enjoyment and greater good of all citizens and visitors. They work with government entities and private organizations by planning, arranging fund-raisers, right-of-way acquisitions, urban forestry, and public education. We also have to thank the volunteers, because without them, these pathways would have never become a reality.
An important thing to keep in mind while visiting and enjoying the trails is to be sure and follow all trail rules for safety as well as enjoyment.

Trails are usually open from sunrise to sunset, unless otherwise posted, and are for non-motorized use only. Always travel on the right side to share the trail. Bicyclists should always signal before passing, (bike bells are sold along the trail route for about $2). Always be courteous and safe, using caution at road crossings. Respect private property by staying on marked trails routes. Keep dogs leashed and controlled, and please clean up after them. Avoid using the trail if it is wet, snowy, or icy. Wear a helmet and/or protective gear when biking or in-line skating. Always report trail hazards. You can report a hazard at the surface milemarker and call the Park Board at (417) 864-1051. To report an emergency, got to the surface mile-marker and call 911.

In Springfield, Mo., the greenways are divided into two sections: the Northside and the Southside. The Northside consists of the Frisco Highline Trail and the Sac River Trail. The Frisco Highline Trail, recently named a National Recreation Trail, is 35 miles long, running from Springfield to Bolivar. This is the same 35 mile stretch Harry S. Truman road in his private railroad car,Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½during his “Whistlestop” Campaign for re-election back in 1948. Some sixty years later, the tracks are no longer here, and bicycles have replaced the steam-engine trains. This is a lovely spot to enjoy wooded pastures, and singing birds, which undoubtedly is the one aspect of this trail that remains the same as it was when “Give Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½em hell Harry” rode through during his campaign! This trail crosses 16 different bridges, and you’re likely to see cattle, deer, and small town folklore. This trail is not only a trail of scenic beauty, but one that links the past and present together. Here is a list of the bridges found along this trail, as provided by the official website for the trail:Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ www.friscohighlinetrail.org :

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Equestrians are allowed on the 10-mile Willard to Walnut Grove section only. Trailhead parking is available at the Willard Trailhead, Hwy 160, next to the Willard High School on Jackson Street, and Old Willard Road and West Kearney in Springfield. Mile markers are placed throughout to let you know the extent of your journey. Some recent sad news: just after this trail had been named a National recreation Trail, the historic Little Sac River Bridge (built in 1882), along mile marker 23, was burned by vandals, and this area will be closed off until it can be rebuilt. Plans and hopes for the rebuilding are in the works right now. This trail is rugged, yet scenic, loaded with tree-lined woods, perfect for an afternoon getaway.

The Sac River Trail is an extremely popular trail with mountain bikers of various skill levels, and the trailhead is located off Hwy 13, three miles north of I-44. Be sure to look for a brown highway sign pointing west. The park within this trail gives you an 8 mile interconnecting wooded trail to explore.

There are four southside greenways: Southcreek, Ward Branch, Galloway Creek, and James River. The South Creek Greenway begins at McDaniel Trailhead on Sunset and National Streets. Along the 8 miles of trail, you’ll discover Nathaniel Greene Park, Horton Smith Golf Course, Carver Middle School, and a selection of fine neighborhoods. Parking is offered at Nathaniel Greene Park and McDaniel Park Trailhead. A pedestrian overpass at Kansas Expressway is available for ease of crossing the busy street.

Currently, two-mile sections are developing near the Library Center on South Campbell, and from Wanda Gray School to Rivercut on the James River to form the Ward Branch Greenway. Very soon parking will be available at Twin Oaks Park on Republic Road.

The Galloway Creek Greenway features five miles of trails connecting to Pershing School to Sequiota Park, Galloway Village, the Nature Center, under Highways 60 & 65, and over the lovely Old Iron Bridge at Lake Springfield. This is another trail with the honor of being named a National Recreation Trail by the National Parks Service in 2003. Trailheads are at Pershing School, Sequiota Park, the Nature Center, Pet Cemetery (at the south end of Long Pine Ave), and the Old Iron Bridge. Be advised that there are no dogs or bicycles allowed in any of the trails leading into the Springfield Nature Center. If you get hungry along your exploration, be sure to stop and enjoy a great meal at the Galloway Station Restaurant.

The first mile of the James River Greenway connects to Galloway Creek Greenway, west of the Old Iron Bridge. This trail’s north end currently connects to Gasconade Road, which crosses over 65 Highway.

No matter which trail you choose, you’re sure to see sights to capture your interests, from birds and wildlife to historic sites. I feel that Springfield citizens are quite fortunate to have such a variety of trails for the pleasure of family-fun activities. Whether you are seeking an ideal picnic location, fresh air, or just a tranquil location to get some exercise, or even just to meditate, Springfield offers a myriad of trails or “greenways” to suit your needs.

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