Jackson County's Parks System Provides Paths to Adventure

On Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 16:27

From the first-time hiker to the avid outdoors enthusiast, people of all ages can find the perfect adventure in Jackson County. With more than 22,000 acres of parkland just minutes from Kansas City, Lee’s Summit and its surrounding communities provide an ideal place to work out, reunite with friends or explore unforgettable scenery. “The regional parks system offers quality-of-life experiences or, more simply put, just plain fun to our two million visitors annually,” says Michele Newman, director of Jackson County Parks and Recreation. As the third-largest county parks system in the nation, Jackson County Parks and Recreation offers more than 20 parks with ample land and water recreation for the entire family. While the system’s Native Hoofed Animal Enclosure, three major lakes, full-service marinas and public beaches account for much of the parks’ popularity, the region’s many trails have recently received significant attention from Newman and others at JCPR. “The trails add to the quality of life by providing the opportunity to participate in a variety of active or passive recreation forms in many different settings,” Newman says. She says the Little Blue Trace Trail and Longview Lake Trail – both long, flat, and scenic – are local favorites, with guests frequently enjoying both on- and off-road biking, equestrian trail rides, nature hikes or lengthy jogs. In an effort to spotlight these and other area trails, the JCPR has teamed up with the Mid-America Regional Council of Government, the Missouri Department of Conservation, Powell Gardens and an Eastland task force of local parks departments to create the first online regional trails map. The project is an initiative of The Eastland Community Foundation, whose Eastland Trails and Greenway Fund is helping to promote, acquire land for, build and maintain walking, biking and water trails throughout a 15-city region and portions of three counties. “The Eastland Community Foundation approached us with the idea of a county trails map in the summer of 2007, and we felt it was a worthwhile endeavor that would be a useful tool for Jackson County citizens,” Newman says. The Eastland Trails and Greenway Fund provides partnership opportunities between county government and the region’s private sector, allowing for trail enhancements – such as the completion of the Little Blue Trace Trail from Lee’s Summit Road to Longview Lake – that might not be possible with county resources alone. “The map represents the first success­ful endeavor of our partnership,” Newman says. “It will help foster awareness of what is currently available and the need for more trails in the county.” The map is available free through local chambers of commerce, parks and recreation departments and online at www.jacksongov.org.