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Wyandotte County Opens New Urban Hiking And Biking Trail

Ben Palosaari

The beginning of the new Armourdale Hike and Bike – Island View Loop trail doesn’t look much like the gateway to urban nature oasis.

It’s adjacent to an industrial park and underneath the 18th Street Expressway Bridge, next to unused railroad tracks. There’s a fair amount of broken glass and other debris littering the ground around the trail.

But on Saturday morning, jubilant city officials in workout clothes opened the trail to the public, and the talk was largely of turkeys, deer and bald eagles that live near the trail.

“This morning at 8:05, I spotted three turkeys going along the levee road,” Chair of the Kaw Valley Drainage District Board, Bundy Jenkins, said. He added that when the weather cools down, the path, which runs along the Kansas River, will be prime eagle-spotting territory. 

“We have nesting in the island trees, you’ll see [eagles] setting there all winter long,” he said. “Last year we had 31 eagles.”

The creation of the 1.3-mile trail, which runs between 18th Street and 12th Street, marks the first time the drainage district has opened its land for public use. And Wyandotte County 2nd District Commissioner Brian McKiernan said that the trail will be a major help for getting Armourdale and all Wyandotte County residents healthier.

“It’s human nature, that when you remove barriers and make things easier for humans, they do those things. Today, we’ve removed a barrier and made it easier to take a nice, protected 1.3-mile walk right here in the heart of the city. That’s a great thing,” McKiernan said. He also said it could be a template for further urban walking and biking paths in the future.

“When I posted to Facebook about my walk down this trail a couple of months ago, somebody commented, ‘It’s only 1.3 miles,’" he said. "No, that’s not the way to look at it. The way to look at it is it’s 1.3 miles today. Let’s enjoy the victory, and then dream about the possibilities in the future.”  

Kansas City, Kansas Mayor and CEO Mark Holland said that the trail shows what can happen when community organizations and politicians collaborate on projects.

“Finally!” Holland shouted to the applause of a couple dozen area residents that turned out for the first public walk on the trail. 

Holland, occasionally talking over the barks and whines of residents’ dogs, hailed the path as a way for Wyandotte County to become a more health-minded community. The Unified Government has made improving the health of residents a priority since 2009 when the Kansas Health Institute ranked it the least-healthy of all 105 counties in the state.

“It’s taken two years to this point. And it’s taken a paradigm shift that parks and rec is not about fun and games, it’s about a healthy lifestyle.”

The Armourdale Hike and Bike – Island View Loop is closed to vehicles and is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. until October when the hours change to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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