A St. James High School teacher and her students are reaching out to local government officials to express the need for a county hiking/biking trail between St. James and Rolla.
Martha Cameron, a special education teacher who teaches a government class through the special education program, and some of her students on Sept. 20 visited with Phelps County Commissioners about the issue.
In a letter from Cameron and five of her students, Calvin Evans, Matthew Latham, Lea Gardiner, Daniel Murphy and Sarah Keller, to Phelps County Presiding Commissioner Randy Verkamp, they wrote, “There are many area athletes who run and bike between the cities of St. James and Rolla. Recent events have shown us the dangers of such activities, emphasizing the need for a trail that leads between the two communities.”
Cameron said the recent events included St. James resident Lisa Persicke who was struck and killed by a vehicle while jogging on Historic Route 66 on Aug. 19 and another jogger who was struck and seriously injured on Bridge School Road in Rolla on Sept. 10.
Cameron said she likes to run and recently completed a half-marathon. She said a few other teachers at the high school have also done half-marathons.
The letter by Cameron and her students states that while both Rolla and St. James provide trails within their cities, the trails are not long enough to provide a challenge for those training for long-distance events.
Cameron decided to get her class involved because they were learning about representative government. “When I told them about the issues, they started to get excited about it,” she said.
In addition to speaking with the commission, Cameron and her students also met with St. James Mayor Dennis Wilson and sent a copy of their letter to Rolla Mayor Bill Jenks III. The county commission also recommended Cameron and her class contact the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) and the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC), which could help secure grants for such a trail.
During a phone interview with Cameron, she said she would like to see an off-road trail, noting that she sees several cyclists who often use Old St. James Road, which has limited to no shoulders.
Cameron said a concept like the Katy Trail in Missouri would be beneficial to this region by not only being a tourist attraction but providing an additional opportunity for those who prefer outdoor recreational activities.
The Katy Trail was created using the abandoned tracks of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) rail line. County commissioners said they were unaware of any abandoned rail lines in Phelps County that could be converted for a similar trail here.
“It’s frustrating we dont have anywhere to run,” Cameron said, noting that she feels such a trail may not be a priority among some entities.