A new bike park in St. Joseph, Missouri is set to open at the end of May, fitting in with a rapid growth of trails in the Midwest. Last year we wrote about a new bike park in Ironton, Missouri and trails in Madisonville, Kentucky, and River Bluff Trails Park in St. Joseph will soon join the likes mountain bike optimized singletrack in the Midwest.
In 2019, the City of St. Joseph started looking at projects to fit a piece of land bordered by the Missouri River, a conservation area, and a freeway. Recent flooding events and the likelihood of more flooding limited much of what could be done with the land, as did land ownership and the freeway. But what they did have was a ridgeline that lended itself to potential recreation, vistas, and economic growth.
Madison Davis, a city council member with the City of St. Joseph, noticed Shepherd Mountain in Ironton and how prolific Bentonville has become in adding hundreds of miles of trail.
“There’s been so many different communities around St. Joseph, and around Missouri, that have been able to find that if you spend $1 on this sort of thing, you get $2 back in economic impact,” said Davis. “And those are real simple terms, that is easy for most people to understand.”
The city is also trying to bolster recreation opportunities in the area to attract and retain younger residents.
“There are four or five hundred jobs that are open, but we’re just having trouble finding a skilled workforce to be there,” said Davis. “And so we’ve got to be able to create a better place for those individuals, so they have something to look forward to when they’re looking at where to move.”
Through a hotel and motel tax, the City is putting between $1.75-2 million into the River Bluff Trails Park. There will be rolling cross-country trails, flow trails, a skills area, progressive features, and varied gravity trails. An 8-10 foot wide gravel path will take hikers and mountain bikers up the ridgeline overlooking the Missouri River and the trails will roll off both sides. The park will officially open on Memorial Day weekend, and eventually there will be 15-17 miles total in the trails park. Nomad Trails Development is carving out the singletrack. According to Brett Shoffner the owner of Nomad, there is up to 270 feet of elevation gain in some areas.
“I think people will be extremely surprised,” said Shoffner.
Shoffner says he has advocated for progressive trails for a long time in the Kansas and Missouri area and now with a supportive city and community, they’re trying to add enough mileage and diversity in trails for anyone who runs, rides, or hikes. He’s hopeful that the trail system will make a quantifiable return on investment and will attract tourists and home sales.
Davis with the city council has already seen an uptick in mountain biking in the area with the Missouri Interscholastic Cycling League (MICL) and a huge interest in high school cycling. He’s seen hundreds of kids at the MICL races, many of whom weren’t interested in sports before. He believes River Bluff Trails Park will draw riders from all over the Midwest to visit St. Joseph.
“I keep telling people, it’s the greatest thing happening in Missouri that no one knows about.”