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2023 Day in the Life: Mary Kromrey

April 3, 2023

Posted online

Feels like spring. So, the short commute to work is a natural choice for Mary Kromrey this early April morning: She rides her bicycle 3 miles from her Rountree neighborhood home to the downtown office of Ozark Greenways Inc.

Kromrey is executive director of the nonprofit that promotes 110 miles of multiuse trails, including street cycling routes in the Springfield area.

“I left at 7:46 and I rolled in at 8:03,” she says.

Temperatures are climbing to 80 degrees, so it’s an ideal day for users of the master-planned trail system. But Kromrey’s workday is stacked with virtual meetings.

“Today ended up being a Zoom day,” she says of the morning’s back-to-back-to-back virtual meetings.

The first is a call with Missouri State Parks officials about a new portion of the Rock Island Trail to intersect the Katy Trail. Next, she links virtually with Andy Thomason, a transportation planner with City Utilities of Springfield, and they’re talking bus routes for the Celebrate SGF 2023 event in October.

“Do you feel comfortable inquiring if CU would consider running a special shuttle somewhere?” Kromrey asks, while they’re reviewing a transit map shared on screen.

“What is this, the red line 27? Oh, snap,” she says upon learning the bus doesn’t run on Sundays. “That’s good to know. I’m glad we had this talk.”

Kromrey works in a corner desk among four in the open office, and she’s surrounded by Ikea shelves full of nature books – “On Trails: An Exploration” by Robert Moor is a favorite – and stacks of stickers, many for the Iron Horse Gravel Grind, a fundraising ride scheduled May 7. Two desks are occupied this morning by Susan Mattheis, office manager/conservation coordinator, and John Montgomery, manager of the Frisco Highline Trail.

After a brief conversation with her colleagues, Kromrey dials in to her next Zoom call. She’s first to break the ice: “Everybody having a good Monday so far? It’s beautiful out.”

That’s Kromrey’s style – she brings some spunk, humor, a light air in serious meetings, and gets direct to come away with the important business details.

She doesn’t say much else in this meeting with a half dozen others filling her laptop screen – among them are Tim Rosenbury of the city, Olivia Hough of CU and Jared Rasmussen of Olsson Inc. Kromrey listens intently and scrutinizes a provided map of the Jordan Creek area downtown. The discussion centers on a proposed trail along the urban creek between Boonville Avenue and Main Street – and how it may incorporate with potential commercial developments, especially considering the installation of wells and underground electric lines.

“The challenge that we have with the trails is the street’s down low,” says engineer Rasmussen, noting concern about Americans with Disabilities Act access with significant grade changes at play. Another chimes in: “more construction effort and a lot more costly,” and the group concurs a developer could incorporate the trail into a project. They cite developments in Bentonville, Arkansas, where mixed-use complexes treat trails as amenities.

To this point, Kromrey hops on an adjacent desktop computer to dig up a 2016 study by the Urban Land Institute. She grabs the document link, titled “Active Transportation and Real Estate-Trail Oriented Development,” and emails the group. From her perspective, trails can enhance development potential.

“It’s not something one needs to work around but can work with,” she says.

The meeting length leaves little time for Kromrey to get to her pre-lunch workout. She quickly pedals to Royal Barbell on Jefferson Avenue for group training. Others in the class regularly exercised at the downtown YMCA, where Kromrey worked for 15 years through 2016 before following the footsteps of Ozark Greenways 22-year leader Terry Whaley. She says the group is glad to settle in at the nearby gym after YMCA officials closed the branch in late March.

“So bittersweet. I’m super curious to see what’s going to happen to that building,” Kromrey says, ahead of Phelps County Bank announcing its acquisition and renovation plan. “The original part of that building is pretty unique. Hopefully, the next owner will reimagine part of it.”

A mile to the north, the Ozark Greenways team rents part of the second floor in the Downtown Springfield Community Improvement District building – the one with “DOWNTOWN” wrapped around the facade at the corner of Boonville and Chestnut Expressway. Visitors must enter by a staircase in the rear and walk across an outdoor patio. That’s the spot for Kromrey’s post-lunch meeting, under the shade of a table umbrella, with CU officials Steve Stodden and Daniel Hedrick. In the more casual conversation, she’s on a fact-finding mission to strategize on spending $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act money before deadline.

The biggest meeting of the day follows. Kromrey has called together the partners in the Chadwick Flyer Trail project to meet in the first-floor CID conference room.

She sits in the corner seat, happily welcoming all as they arrive. Nine others trickle in, representing the city departments of Public Works, Quality of Place and Parks, as well as Ozarks Transportation Organization and BNSF – a key player in the discussion. The partners want the rail company to sell or donate its unused lines from Lake Springfield, where it no longer serves the decommissioned CU power plant, north to Sunshine Street and potentially farther.

This is where ARPA funds would come into play.

“I’m so glad you can be here today to help brainstorm how we can spend down that money,” Kromrey says to BNSF representative Cheryl Townlian, who acknowledges a land transaction is likely, pending executive approvals.

Apparent past hurdles seem to have come down.

“If we can get this land, that’ll be big time,” says Rosenbury, the Quality of Place director. “But I’m glad to know we can start the work.

“We’re going to need someone from Public Works, ultimately, to bless the transaction,” he adds, looking at Martin Gugel, the department’s assistant director.

There’s a sense of urgency at the table to obtain the land needed to extend the Chadwick Flyer – and complete the surveying, engineering and improvements to railroad bridges along the route.

“We feel like we’re in the wild, wild west with ARPA funds. Do you all feel that way?” Kromrey says. “You will hear me rejoicing when our grant agreement contract is executed.”

The day finishes where it began: a bike ride.


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