The newest section of the Turkey Creek recreation trail is less than three years old and among the most scenic.
But heavy rainfall the week before Memorial Day tore two holes in the new stretch, preventing bikers and walkers from completing the one-mile path between Antioch Road and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park.
The city has no timetable for reopening the trail, which hugs a woodsy hillside above Interstate 35. An engineering firm first must evaluate the damage and identify remedies for fixing it.
Nearly 6 inches of rain saturated the soil the week before the damage occurred, said city spokesman Sean Reilly, causing the trail to collapse in areas with a steeper incline.
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The pavement was damaged by the creek rising from below and the hillside slipping from above, said Greg Ruether, Overland Park’s director of park services.
Less extensive damage occurred about the same time on the Indian Creek and Tomahawk Creek trails to the south, but those were reopened in short order.
A permanent repair was completed about two weeks ago on the Indian Creek path west of Mission Road, which also involved a hillside, Ruether said. On Tomahawk Creek, storms eroded the earth next to the trail behind the Blue Valley Recreation fields at 137th Street. The long-term solution is to move that part of the trail away from the creek, which the city hopes to do yet this summer.
Turkey Creek is more complicated, and the cost of repair is unknown.
"We want to get it open as soon as we can so people can enjoy it," Ruether said. "It’s a very nice trail."
Many of the area’s recreational trails are constructed along streamways on land that’s unsuitable for structures because of potential flooding. That makes them vulnerable to washouts.
"Each year, we experience various levels of damage due to rain storms," Reilly said. "This is not uncommon for Overland Park or other Johnson County cities because of the location of trails."
Because Turkey Creek flows next to a bluff east of Antioch, Ruether said, "we knew going in that this would be one of the more difficult places we’d build a trail on."
The Turkey Creek trail starts just west of I-35 at 75th Street and runs northeast through Merriam. Overland Park opened its $1.13 million segment from Antioch to Metcalf in November 2013. A federal grant covered 80 percent of the cost, Reilly said, and the rest came from Johnson County and the city.
It’s part of MetroGreen, a still-developing system of trails and greenways across the Kansas City area that’s marking its 25th anniversary this year.
Last spring, the Prairie Gateway chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects recognized MetroGreen with a Kessler Legacy Award presented to the Mid-America Regional Council. The award is named for landscape design expert George Kessler, who was instrumental in creating Kansas City’s renowned parks and boulevard system.
Planners envisioned the Turkey Creek Trail continuing northeast from Metcalf Avenue through Mission and Kansas City, Kan. However, Mission last year backed away from pursuing its segment, citing the high cost of construction and maintenance and its location away from the city’s downtown area around Johnson Drive.
Meanwhile, cyclists are enjoying more bike lanes and other on-road improvements along Merriam Lane in Kansas City, Kan., and Southwest Boulevard in the two Kansas Citys.