|by Mari Winn Taylor--
Ed Grundy stands beside an old truck he purchased to use for trail maintenance. Grundy, who owns a refinishing shop in Carthage, is a member of the Joplin Trails Coalition with an engineer's eye.
Ruby Jack Trailhead, Carthage
Members of the Joplin Trails Coalition gathered at the eastern Ruby Jack trailhead in Carthage on May 29, before making a drive-through on the first five miles of the 16-mile Rails to Trails project. Ed Grundy of Carthage led the group in an old rusty pick-up that he said he purchased especially for trail use.
I hauled my old body up on the seat alongside, quite amazed that I could bridge the "four foot gap" without the use of a running board.
The discovery of large rock on the trail promptly brought the caravan to a halt. Jason Eckhart, one of the two engineers present from Sprenkle & Associates, the firm hired to oversee phase two of the project, admitted that he was responsible for selecting the stone.
"The large rock is a $77,000 mistake," Grundy told me. The original plan, he said, called for something more ADA-accessible.
Joplin Trails Coalition members gather around engineer Jason Eckhart, at left, to discuss the size of the stone chosen for the trail.
When I asked Grundy why Sprenkle and Associates had been chosen, he informed me that Carthage city officials had handled phase one and that Sprenkle was the engineering firm Carthage used for it. It apparently was a natural decision to continue with them.
But Eckhart was not tarred and feathered and the group moved on. However, just past Imperial Road a second stop was made to address the rough rock issue.
Engineer Jason Eckhart, in the hollow, checks out possible drainage problems at County Road 180.
At almost every intersection the group stopped to consider its unique set of problems. At the County Road 164 crossing they decided that yield to traffic signs were needed, other intersections like at County Road 180 near Leggett & Platt required that drainage problems be addressed. New paving of County Road 200 seemed to present elevation problems requiring a tapering in of the trail on both sides.
Shooting elevations was required of the engineering firm for phase two. Rough road still fell in between the initial improved section and the one mile of paved trail in Oronogo.
Phase two ended at Highway D where MoDot required the placement of two red slabs, one on each end of the trail. Bumps on them let anyone sight-impaired know that the highway loomed ahead.
At every intersection red markings show the layout for gates. Fencing is required to keep out motorized vehicles. Railroad iron is being considered for fence posts.
While the sweet smell of honeysuckle wafted through the air, we drove past the backs of farms and sub-divisions. Just past what once was an emu farm, Grundy tried to call my attention to a goat standing atop a dirt pile, but the leafed out trees obstructed the view.
Grundy, who has been on the trail many times, said that he hoped the bobcat he has seen other times would be sunning itself. It wasn't around but just at the four mile marker a bright red cardinal darted by, at other spots cottontails crossed the road and a killdeer acted out her broken wing antics attempting to create a diversion to protect her nest site.
"Riding the trails you go where you'd never go otherwise" was an observation one of the members made. Another observed, "that's what makes them so unique."
The 16-mile Ruby Jack Trail, like the four mile Frisco Greenway Trail connecting the cities of Joplin and Webb city, is being advanced by the Joplin Trails Coalition, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Beginning in Carthage at Oak St. and Old Highway 66 across from the Carthage golf course, the Ruby Jack extends through Oronogo and Carl Junction before ending at the Missouri/Kansas state line. Although only about six-plus miles are fully funded or nearly half of the trail, the entire length is open for hiking and mountain biking. The trail is open daylight hours. Pets are allowed as long as their owners clean up their waste. Restrictions include no motorized vehicles, no hunting or the use of alcohol or tobacco products. For a map of the trail go here.
Contributions may be mailed to the JTC at P.O. Box 2102, Joplin, MO 64803-2102.
Photos by Vince Rosati and Mari Winn Taylor