Economic Development News

Connecting to the island and the river
Published: Tuesday, October 20, 2015 6:00 pm
By: Randy Allen, President/CEO

What should we do to connect to one of our greatest resources? Should we ignore it in the face of barriers created 150 years ago? What would it look like if we were able to get across the river? These are questions that have been pondered over 50 years since land on the south side of the Missouri River began accreting slowly behind the wing dams built by the Corps of Engineers to develop an improved navigation channel in the Missouri River. Prior to that there was no land mass north of the tracks and therefore no opportunity for riverfront access. The creation of the land mass now gives us the opportunity to connect to the river.

I have been asked many times why it is referred to as an “island”. At one time early in the accretion process there was water on all sides. The 1974 Jefferson City GIS aerial photo clearly shows it was an island early in its life at that time.  As the land continued to fill in behind the wing dams, it became more like a traditional peninsula. Although today it is a peninsula in the geographic sense, it is still an island in the sense that it is separated from our city by water on three sides and 6 railroad tracks on the other. So it is an island!

Since the late 1960s, plans for access and development of the so-called island have been many and diverse. Time and river regulation have dramatically reduced the early thoughts of development in the river floodway. Instead, the focus and benefit now discussed and recommended is to extend the city greenway system and connect it to the river.

Nearly 20 years ago the City, through the Parks and Rec, began developing the city greenway system. Today we have one of the finest greenway systems anywhere, sporting 15 miles of dedicated greenway for walking and biking and passive recreation.

The importance of this access was discussed in the “Greening America’s Capitals” project report in 2012:

“Through projects linking trails and creating access to the Missouri River, Jefferson City will connect its people, history, and natural resources.”

Extending that greenway and providing access is currently under consideration by the Chamber through its Riverfront Access Committee. Thanks to a generous gift from a long-time advocate of making a connection to the river at Adrian’s Island, engineering work has begun. Mrs. BJ DeLong’s initial gift is being used to determine the feasibility  and cost of a bridge for pedestrians, bikes and small utility vehicles from two locations on the south side of the the island, one on the east end of the island near MSP at Lafayette Street,  and the other on the west end at the Capitol Grounds.  Our attempt now is to build a bridge across the railroad tracks and provide direct and safe access to a new section of greenway along the river.

Access to the riverfront and extending the greenway has been identified in our strategic Economic and Community Development plan developed in 2010 with the assistance of TIP Strategies from Austin Texas. In part it reads:

“Create a riverfront park adjacent to the Missouri River. The location of the Union Pacific rail yard and line has long served as a barrier between Jefferson City and the Missouri River. Reclaiming the riverfront for outdoor recreation (e.g., jogging, biking) and special event purposes (e.g., outdoor concerts and July 4th fireworks displays) serves as an opportunity for the community to once again embrace the river and its heritage. Conceptually, the riverfront could be viewed as providing Jefferson City with a “great lawn” overlooking the Missouri River.”

Many of us are convinced that once our community and visitors have unrestricted access to the riverfront at Adrian’s Island it will become a huge attraction further accelerating and providing critical mass for the improvement of our unique assets at MSP, Downtown and the Millbottom.

It was once a true island donated to Jefferson City by the Adrian family. Although now attached to the land mass on the south bank of the Missouri River, it remains an island for all practical purposes. In the next several months we will discuss plans to build a bridge to the island and once and for all connect to our Missouri River.

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