On July 27th, advocates and representatives of communities from across the state traveled to Versailles, Missouri (pop. ~2,500) to see what ideas can be implemented in their respective communities.
Versailles, MO has long had an atmosphere for community-focused initiatives, perhaps most visible with October's Apple Festival that draws thousands of visitors. In recent years, however, Versailles has gained notoriety for expanding its availability of active transportation options, which can allow residents and visitors to enjoy Versailles' community atmosphere year-round. Much of this recent success can be attributed to dedicated individuals, years of planning, and smart investments that benefit Versailles' citizens.
Here's a sampling of active transportation projects that are being implemented across the city:
Twelve new bike racks and lots of benches were purchased with support from Tara Grantham and 100 Empowered Women of Versailles, which will be located throughout the community.
Three new pedestrian crossing beacons and crosswalks were implemented across the state highways of MO-5 and MO-52, providing safe access to schools and businesses. Funding that supported this project came from a Transportation Alternatives Program grant through Missouri Department of Transportation.
Signage for a new community bike route was purchased through the Active Living Community of Practice grant, administered by Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and much of the signage as well as painted 'sharrows' along the route have already been installed.
New sidewalks can be found along several busy streets including Monroe and Newton, guided in part by Versailles' 2019 Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, and supported with funding from a recent voter-approved tax.
Missouri State Parks accepted the Rock Island Trail corridor as a future State Park in December 2021. The trail will run directly through town, and projects such as trailheads and additional sidewalks are being coordinated to connect with the trail.
Missourians for Responsible Transportation recognizes these historic developments for active transportation, especially since they happened in a town of only a couple thousand people, which like many across the state, has limited resources. MRT works with a consortium of small communities through the Active Living Community of Practice (ALCP) grant, and this grant presented a perfect opportunity to showcase these investments.
The community showcase culminated in the form of a training on July 27th, 2022, hosted by MRT and our ALCP planning partners Trailnet, BikeWalkKC, Local Motion, MO Department of Health and Senior Services, and MO State Parks for community champions representing Bethany, Cole Camp, West Plains, and for the nearby communities of Versailles and Stover. The training provided a space for observation, experiential learning, and discussion amongst peers about how to expand active transportation concepts within their communities.
We kicked off the training at the Morgan County Health Center with a welcome and introductions before commencing with a community bike ride. Local Motion graciously shared their bicycle fleet for those that did not have bicycles, and we followed Versailles' bicycle route, developed by Stefanie Pryor, Assistant Administrator for the Morgan County Health Center.
After returning to the Morgan County Health Center, we continued with a presentation by former Mayor and former State Representative Chuck Pryor. Chuck offered insight into the Versailles Active Transportation Plan, providing an account for how it developed, and sharing what implementation steps have been taken up to this point.
After a shared lunch at the successful local business Bee's Knees Brewing Company, we gathered in Versailles' historic square to set up a pop-up traffic calming demonstration with materials lent by Trailnet. A pop-up demonstration allows a community to temporarily implement traffic calming measures for a community, proving efficacy and ensuring confidence in the implementation of future projects. The City of Versailles' Mayor Jamie Morrow, Public Works Director Charles Hibdon, and the Versailles Police Department joined in to observe the demonstration and discuss further opportunities of Versailles' planning strategy with ALCP community champions.
Overall, we are grateful for the partners that joined together to make this training possible, and both community representatives and the training facilitators brought home key takeaways from the event. According to Marty Szigety, community champion for West Plains,
"The training in Versailles was informative, inspiring and lots of fun. It was most pleasing to see the strong interest for the betterment of their community that the Versailles City Officials showed, primarily through their extensive involvement in our training. The pride they have in their impressive city was obvious."
On behalf of MRT, thank you for all who brought this training to life! We are excited to work with more communities to expand active transportation options across the state.