Eldon is a small rural community of approximately 5 thousand residents located 15 miles north of Lake of the Ozarks (a regional recreation destination). The community was severely impacted by the recent loss of 400 factory jobs, but with assets such as a high-performing school district, an active and engaged citizenry, and the development of the Rock Island Trail, which will pass through the center of Eldon, Eldon has an opportunity to rebuild itself as a livable community. The City of Eldon sought help with using livability as its new economic development strategy.
The City, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated technical assistance provider (Walkable and Livable Communities Institute) defined the following objectives for technical assistance:
The first day of on-site technical assistance began with a pre-briefing attended by the Walkable and Livable Community Institute (WALC), City staff and key stakeholders. The tour of Eldon which followed was used by WALC staff to inform that evening's community meeting. The community meeting drew a crowd of approximately 45 to the Rock Island Healthy Hub Park where WALC presented on topics that included: the economic and social benefits of walkability; how a trail and park could spur economic development; the basics of walking and biking connectivity; and the elements of Safe Route to School programs. The local newspaper reported that an attentive and (later) inspired crowd queried WALC staff on potential challenges to the vision of a more livable Eldon.
A half day community workshop was the focus of the second day of on-site technical assistance. In attendance were key stakeholders from the state involved with developing the Rock Island Trail project. The workshop began with a presentation by WALC on best practices for designing walkable and bicycle-friendly communities. WALC then led a walking audit of the downtown during which barriers to walking were identified and discussed. (One of the discoveries of the audit was that the old railroad depot was a prime location for a Rock Island Trail welcome center.) Upon completion of the walk participants gathered over lunch to brainstorm opportunities to advance the City's livability agenda. At the conclusion of the workshop, the WALC team met with key stakeholders to identify next steps.
Lake Regional Hospital has broken ground on their two-story medical facility adjacent to the trail. The hospital has pledged at least $10,000 to the depot project. The hospital's donation was used to leverage other donations, including an equal pledge from the other medical clinic in Eldon.
A wayfinding project was completed that placed 30 signs all over town to help people find popular designations, landmarks and amenities such as water fountains.
The Rock Island Park Walking Path was completed and had nearly 5 thousand users in its first month. (The Walking Path is the unpaved future Rock Island Trail.)
Bicycle parking has been installed at Rock Island Park and Eldon Community Center.
A BMX track has been completed at South Elementary school. Another track, specifically for larger bikes and kids, is still a possibility at the Eldon Middle School.
The City has applied to Missouri DOT for a grant to improve pedestrian safety on Highway 52/54.
The City has gained partial ownership over the train depot and plans to use it as a Welcome Center for users of the Rock Island Trail.