Sometimes, two miles amounts to a lot more than two miles.

A short extension of Gravois Greenway (aka Grant’s Trail) that has been under development since 2012 will take the paved trail from where it previously ended at Orlando’s Event Center in South County to the River des Peres Greenway just south of Interstate 55. At the time we went to print, the project was only weeks away from completion.

Once open, it will connect six municipalities and portions of unincorporated St. Louis County from Kirkwood to the St. Louis City limits near River City Casino. It will also tie together three greenways — Gravois, River des Peres, and the Mississippi — making it easier for people to get to school, jobs, parks, and other attractions in a large swath of south St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis.

“Because of the regional population density and the popularity of Gravois Greenway, this [extension] has been called for for a decade,” said Lonny Boring, senior project manager with Great Rivers Greenway.

The challenges to extend the route were many. Since it runs along the 1-55 right-of-way, Great Rivers Greenway had to work closely with the Missouri Department of Transportation, Ameren, and other organizations to minimize the impact on drivers and residents during construction — most notably at the greenway’s intersection with Bayless Avenue.

To make this connection a reality, it required two bridges and an underpass. “It was like threading a needle,” said Boring, referring to the Bayless intersection.

The upshot is 20 miles of interconnected greenways with many destinations, including six parks, two community centers, two libraries, three athletic fields, two historic sites, an ice rink, and a MetroLink station, according to Anne Milford, communications coordinator for Great Rivers Greenway. A specific highlight is a boardwalk and restored wetland area near the trailhead at Orlando’s.

“What we’re creating, while short in distance, enables connections for lots of users, from hardcore cyclists to commuters,” said Emma Klues, vice president of communications and outreach for Great Rivers Greenway. “It removes barriers that were there before and connects one of the largest stretches of greenway. As people start to discover this connection, it will open their eyes to the possibilities of greenways.”

“We’re excited to see people be able to spread out,” added Milford. “For folks who have limited their exploration to Grant’s Trail, this extension will connect them to parts of the city they may have never been before.”

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.
Photos: Courtesy of Great Rivers Greenway.