Trails opened as part of restoration of Roanoke Park

Neighbors got a first hike along the new trails through Roanoke Park on Saturday. Photos by Mike Sinclair.

By Joe Lambe

More than two miles of trails opened Saturday at Roanoke Park, the product of months of work with sledge hammers, shovels and more.

The leader of the effort, Brett Shoffner, was there at 5 a.m. for final preparation and led the first formal hike.

Asked for a speech, the graduate student at the University of Missouri at Kansas City just said, “Thanks for coming.”

His volunteer group, Earth Riders Trails Association, did the work as part of a Roanoke Park improvement plan. The master plan involves the non-profit Roanoke Park Conservancy, the city parks department and the neighborhoods of Roanoke, Valentine, Volker and Coleman Highlands.

Curt Watkins, conservancy president, said the trails help tie the area to its historical past.

Twenty years after the civil war, it was south of the city and below the fairgrounds that was in what is now the Valentine neighborhood, he said.

People with picnic baskets took horse drawn trolley cars to Roanoke and hiked up to the fairgrounds. It became one of the original parks in the city park and boulevard system designed by George Kessler.

But for about the last 50 years the park was marked by “benign neglect,” he said. Trash and deterioration prompted complaints for someone to do something.

Brett Schoffner has led efforts to create the trails in the park.

Residents realized, “If not us, who,” Watkins said, and the park effort started. They hauled out tons of trash and ripped away piles of invasive honeysuckle brush and trails took shape.

He praised Shoffner and his group for their work there and in creating over 100 miles of trails in other areas.

“Brett of the trails, thank you so much,” Watkins said.

Shoffner led the group up “the Layover,” where mud was still fresh after two days of heavy rains.

He paused to show them a marked off area where native plants are replacing weeds.

At “lookout point,” on top of a rock bluff, he pointed down to the KoldKar trail below and warned people to stay back from the edge.

Because of plants sticking up, he said, “the edge is not exactly what the edge looks like.”

At a slippery mud slope, he said, “It’s a little soft still, we just built this this week.”

Trevor Freeman, a Roanoke resident who also worked on the trail this week, showed where they broke rock, scraped it back to make an edge and filled in with loads of dirt.

“Very hard work,” he said.

Small segments of the dreaded honeysuckle brush can still be seen along the trails, almost like it is patiently waiting to reclaim them.

So how do you keep it at bay and keep the trails maintained?

“Never ending battle,” Shoffner said.

The more people use the trails, the better, he said.

“More people will generate safety and more use and better care,” he said.

Photos by Mike Sinclair

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