July 19, 2017
DEFINITION: Providing or relating to views of impressive or beautiful natural scenery.
Straight lines and vacuous city grids? Nah, you won’t find those in St. Joseph. We like to think outside those boxes. Take for example, the crown jewel of this city’s outdoor recreation, the Parkway and it’s winding 26 miles of character.
The familiar sound of a cyclist whizzing past, leaving nothing but a slight breeze in their wake. This aerobic battle cry and its aftermath might kick start your heart if you’re not used to it. But if you’ve spent any amount of time walking or jogging on St. Joseph’s Parkway system, it’s as much part of the atmosphere as the birds chirping or the occasional squirrel hurriedly crossing in front of you.
This marathon tract meanders from the north end to the south side, blurring socioeconomic lines and welcoming every citizen regardless of race or nationality, age or fitness level. Its use for the betterment of our community goes beyond physical fitness. An innumerable amount of charitable and community events are held on the Parkway throughout the year – Paint the Parkway Pink in October, Parties on the Parkway throughout the summer, St. Joseph March for Babies in April, and countless others.
Bishop Leblond High School Cross Country Head Coach, Greg Mrkvicka, whose team frequently trains on the Parkway, has nothing but praise for the outdoor recreational resource.
“We use the running paths a lot…almost every day. It’s hilly and challenging. We start at the Rec Center or up on Ashland and go different directions. It’s safe. It’s away from traffic. There are water fountains and bathrooms spread out along it.”
Mrvkicka, who has competed in dozens of marathons and distance races throughout the country says St. Joseph’s Parkway trails are second to none.
“There’s nothing quite like this. Nothing as scenic as this. It’s very well kept. If something cracks or lifts, they’re out there fixing it.”
It’s a connected group of parks and boulevards that’s as unique as the feet (or tires) that traverse it. When internationally renowned architect, George Burnap designed the system in 1918, it was truly forward thinking. While other city walking paths were being laid out with vacuous straight lines and uniform grids, these 26 miles of character were imaginatively fashioned to artfully wind through our city in several sections like a lazy river in a Bob Ross painting.
Recognized for its pioneering innovation, the Parkway was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. While this beautiful system is the crown jewel of St. Joseph’s outdoor recreation, its corresponding streets also accommodate those looking for a leisurely, scenic drive on a weekend afternoon.
St. Joseph Parks Director, Chuck Kempf says our citizens are its biggest advocates. Undeterred by the Parkway’s enormity, it’s always evolving and improving.
“One of the things that I’ve got in mind for a fairly new project is to create a disc golf course in the area of Bartlett Park.”
A frisbee golf course right in the midst of the Parkway. An uncommon idea? Perhaps. But in a city made with Uncommon Character, it fits rather snugly.
The drive throughout downtown has become more colorful in the last five years, thanks to the creation of larger than life murals that convey the unique spirit of St. Joseph.
In addition to its paved walking paths, the Parkway features miles of rugged biking and hiking trails and serves as a red carpet to some of St. Joseph’s most interesting places.
It’s not paintball. It’s not even a water balloon fight. It’s foam warfare, and there’s a good chance you’ll want to join the fun.
St. Joseph is about to “see red” for three action-packed weeks, and the fans and community couldn’t be happier. Or louder. Or more pumped.
What started 160 years ago has returned in a new way. Ask hundreds of customers and visitors, and they’ll say it’s right on time.