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Greenways development continues through Ozarks

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by Steven Diegel

SBJ Contributing Writer

Preserving and promoting greenspace in and around Springfield has remained a priority among city officials. And Ozark Greenways has emerged as a key tool in making that priority a reality.

The organization was initially founded as Project Parkway, a citizen committee which primarily focused on community tree-planting projects, such as those along Chestnut Expressway. Ozark Greenways eventually evolved from the group, taking on a much broader scope and aiming not just at new trees, but whole greenways.

"It is now an enhancement and conservation project," said Rick Mayer, project coordinator for Ozark Greenways. "We create linear parks to enhance and preserve greenspace in Springfield and in points around Springfield."

The volunteer organization has worked on several noteworthy projects in the past, including the two-mile-long Volunteer Nature Trail, located southwest of town, the six-mile-long Sac River Trail, and the Galloway Creek Greenway, a three-mile-long project stretching from Sequiota Park to the Springfield Conservation Nature Center.

A number of additional projects are already in the works for the near future, including a trail expansion to the South Creek-Wilson's Creek Greenway and the addition of a bridge along the Galloway Creek Greenway. A 10-mile extension for the Frisco Highline Trail is also planned. The trail will eventually run 32 miles, connecting Springfield, Willard, Walnut Grove and Bolivar.

"We will begin phase I the construction on the main trail between Willard and Walnut Grove sometime this summer," according to Mayer. "This will be kind of unique, because adjacent to the main trail is an equestrian trail where people can ride their horses."

Mayer said establishing such trail and greenway projects is important, not only as a source of public enjoyment but to preserve part of the natural Ozarks heritage.

"We realize the need for trails along these corridors and want to promote the preservation and creation of greenspace," Mayer said. "These things are necessary as part of the overall quality of life we enjoy in Springfield. If we do not preserve and enhance them, they will not exist in the future."

While assisted to some measure by corporate sponsorships, Ozark Greenways stressed its reliance on the growing number of volunteers, who are considered the lifeblood of the organization.

"Members make it possible," Mayer said. "Last year our membership was about 400 people; this year we have 600, which indicates people think preservation of greenways is important."

A number of volunteer days are planned over the next few months by both Ozark Greenways and other area organizations. The first will involve planting trees in the median south of Sunset Street along National Avenue in celebration of Arbor Day.

The organization will celebrate Earth Day April 18 with the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks by conducting a joint clean-up project along South Creek and Jordan Creek. Similar efforts are also being planned with other area organizations for the James River basin, depending upon the number of volunteers.

Anyone interested in participating in either of these projects is encouraged to contact Ozark Greenways or

the Springfield Conservation Nature Center.

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