Great Rivers Greenway's 114 miles of accessible trails provide new options, future projects to provide more

By: Danni Eickenhorst & Shannon Scott, Great Rivers Greenway

After sustaining a paralyzing injury on July 19, 2006 in a building collapse in south city, veteran Jeremiah DeGuire realized a very different St. Louis region than he’d ever known. Unable to move from the waist down, Jeremiah experienced his hometown in a new way, realizing limits to accessibility in surprising places.

“After my injury, there weren’t many options for me to get around for recreation,” said Jeremiah, on a recent hand-cycle ride on the Mississippi River Greenway trail at Jefferson Barracks.

Today, DeGuire has access to more than 114 miles of trails that are fully accessible for people of all abilities. “I’m excited to see the ways Great Rivers Greenway is making the region more connected for others like me,” he said.

Since local residents voted to create Great Rivers Greenway in 2000, the district has been working to develop an interconnected system of greenways, parks and trails throughout St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County that is fully accessible for young families with strollers, the elderly, and people with limited mobility. The overall vision for the River Ring trail system includes more than 600 miles of trails, which will connect communities throughout the region and provide meaningful transportation options for everyone.

One of the district’s current projects will provide one very important connection for people with limited mobility and the elderly – the opportunity to connect to their riverfront for the first time without a step or curb in the way. The district will be involved in design and construction of a portion of the CityArchRiver 2015 Project that will create sloping pathways as an alternative to the grand staircase along Leonor K. Sullivan. The project will also serve as a key connection in the River Ring trail system, connecting the Confluence Greenway with the Mississippi River and Chouteau Greenways.

“We couldn’t be more proud to be a part of such a transformative project that will provide visitors and residents who have never had the option to enjoy our riverfront with the opportunity to connect with our city and our majestic river in a ways that’s both safe and enjoyable,” said Susan Trautman, Executive Director for Great Rivers Greenway.

With 114 miles of greenway trails completed to date, the district will continue its work to improve connectivity and provide options for residents throughout the region.

“Leading an active lifestyle is something that everyone can benefit from, but we know that it’s of utmost importance to those with restricted mobility to stay active to prevent a variety of health issues. These trails provide so much to our users, and for people with disabilities, they can really provide a lifeline,” said Trautman. “From the start, we’ve worked to build assets that will benefit all of the people of the region. Stories like that of Jeremiah just remind us how important the work we’re doing really is.”