Major step for biking & walking in Missouri: Expanded trails/greenway district in STL, new trails/greenway district in Jackson County/KC awaiting governor's signature

Yesterday we announced that the Missouri General Assembly had finally passed a bill greatly expanding the Great Rivers Greenway District in the St. Louis area, and creating a new Trails and Greenway District in Jackson County in the Kansas City area.  The bill, HB 1504, is now awaiting Governor Nixon's signature.

Photo credit: Photo by Len Cabrera on Trailnet's FlickR site. License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Photo credit: Photo by Len Cabrera on Trailnet's FlickR site. License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The expanded funding from the districts, though very modest in comparison with current state and local taxes, will greatly expand and accelerate creation of trails and on-road bicycle connections in the counties affected--which cover over 1/3 of Missouri's population.

Both districts are empowered to spend some of the funds improving roads that create connections among parks, greenways, and trails, for instance by marking bicycle routes or adding bicycle lanes.  Great Rivers Greenway funding has been the key funding behind initiatives like the recent Gateway Bike Plan covering the St. Louis region.

Both the St. Louis and Jackson County districts will require more votes within the counties affected before the district is created (Jackson County) or expanded (St Louis area).

Here are more details of how the districts will work, from the official legislative summary posted on the Missouri General Assembly web site:

SCS/HB 1504 - This act modifies provisions of law regarding sales taxes.

METROPOLITAN PARK AND RECREATION DISTRICT

(Sections 67.750, 67.1706, 67.1712, 67.1715, 67.1721, 67.1742, and 67.1754)

This act authorizes any county that is part of the Metropolitan Park and Recreation district to impose an additional sales tax up to 3/16th of one percent, if the voters of St. Louis County and at least one of the other counties approve the tax. Sixty percent of the additional tax is to go to the Gateway Arch grounds and other regional park and trail improvements with specific amounts allocated at different times to the Arch and to other park projects. Forty percent of the additional tax is to go to the county for local and county park improvements. This additional tax would not apply to the sale of food and prescription drugs.

The act requires that any contract concerning capital improvements or maintenance activities in the Gateway Arch grounds area be approved by the Metropolitan Park and Recreation district, the federal government, and any public or private not-for-profit entities that directly provide supplemental funding for the contract. Capital improvements and maintenance activities must be constructed and performed according to a comprehensive agreement approved by the Metropolitan Park and Recreation district before the public vote on the additional sales tax.

Any county that approved the additional sales tax is required to submit a proposal to reauthorize this tax to the county voters at a general election no later than 23 years after the additional sales tax is effective.

These provisions of the act have an emergency clause.

JACKSON COUNTY PARKS, TRAILS, AND GREENWAYS DISTRICT

(Sections 67.5000 to 67.5038)

This amendment authorizes Jackson County to create a parks, trails, and greenways district and impose an additional sales tax of one-tenth of one cent, if the voters of Jackson County approve the creation of the district and the tax. The parks, trails, and greenways district will be responsible for planning, developing, operating, and maintaining trails, open space, greenways, and parks throughout Jackson County. This amendment does not modify any existing recreation system or public parks system that exists within the district.

Among other powers, the district has the power to issue tax-exempt bonds, enter into contracts, lease, purchase, and hold property, establish and collect charges for using district facilities, employ staff, and appoint advisory committees. The district also has the power to enter into agreements with public authorities to pay for alterations to highways, street or roads, when the highway, street or road affects trails or parks of the district. The district does not have the power of eminent domain.

The one-tenth of one cent sales tax will be distributed between the district, the county, and the cities in the county, with forty-five percent going to the district, fifteen percent going to the county, and forty percent going to the cities in proportion to each city's local sales tax contribution. The sales tax revenues may not be paid to any special allocation fund established under the Real Property Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act.

The district is governed by a seven member board, with one member chosen by the presiding commissioner or elected county executive of the county, two members appointed by the mayor of the largest city, and four members appointed on a rotating basis by the mayors of the next five most populous cities in the county.

The district is required to follow state bidding requirements for all construction and maintenance purchases above ten thousand dollars.

It's not too late to support our work in Jefferson City by becoming a 2012 Legislative Platform sponsor!

Photo credit: Photo by Len Cabrera on Trailnet's FlickR site. License: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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