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Trailnet wants to build biking and walking trails in city's north side and south side neighborhoods

Trailnet claims a 12-mile walking and biking trail network could boost property values and business districts, while making the city more attractive to younger generations.

Trailnet wants to build a network of bicycle and walking trails that would connect St. Louis' north side and south side neighborhoods to an east-west trail that stretches from downtown to Washington University.

The nonprofit, which has been working for several years to develop a network of protected trails on existing city streets, has released a map that shows the general location of the proposed paths. They reach north to Fairground Park and Old North and south to Lafayette Square, Tower Grove and Cherokee Street.

Trailnet CEO Ralph Pfremmer said the trails would connect to a “spine” — the Chouteau Greenway — an east-west path being developed by Great Rivers Greenway that stretches from the Gateway Arch to Forest Park and Washington University. An international design competition is under way for the Chouteau Greenway.

“We intend to take the neighborhoods and connect them into the spine,’’ Pfremmer said. “The connectors are protected bikeways that are actually separated from the cars on the streets. We have a lot of capacity on our streets, and we want to use that capacity to make it safer to walk and bike in St. Louis, connecting everyone to the central city where the jobs are.’’

Determining the specific routes will require input from the public, Pfremmer said. 

“And that has a lot to do with public engagement and looking through our lens of racial equity — looking to make sure that this project is equitable for everyone in St. Louis,’’ he said. “We’ll miss the mark if we don’t do that.


The project would also work with the Forest Park Great Streets project and bikeways planned by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Pfremmer said.

Trailnet has looked at the eight-mile Indianapolis Cultural Trailas a model. That program has reaped economic benefits for Indianapolis, Pfremmer said. He noted that other Midwestern cities are also making strides with their urban trails, and it is important for St. Louis to keep up.

“The real story here is that we have so many people who have become educated on this concept, and they’re looking at these other cities and saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got to get on board.' Because the dividends are very distinctive. You see economic development. A better focus on public health,’’ Pfremmer said. “And then we look at the equity issues that we have in St. Louis and how we can provide a better method of mobility to the people on the north and south side.''

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail cost about $63 million, but Pfremmer said it is too early to estimate the cost of the St. Louis project. Trailnet is still studying funding options, but he believes it would be through a public-private partnership.

Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard


Map shows the general paths of the protected bike/walking paths. The specific streets have not been determined yet.
Credit Provide by Trailnet
Map shows the general paths of the protected bicycle and walking trails. The specific streets have not been determined yet.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.