MONTICELLO, Mo. -- A community park in Monticello is about to become more popular with residents looking for a good place to exercise.
The Monticello Recreation Association recently sought bids to construct a six-foot-wide, quarter-mile-long walking trail in Norman Merrell Memorial Park.
The park already has a quarter-mile walking trail, but the gravel surface isn't in the best condition. So the Monticello Recreation Association applied for funding from the Missouri Department of Transportation and was awarded a $59,620 grant to help rehabilitate the walking trail and a gravel parking lot.
The project's total estimated cost is $74,401, according to a document published by the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission.
"We're going to concrete it and make it handicapped accessible," said Bill Smith, a former Lewis County circuit clerk and a longtime member of the association. "It's going to be a great improvement."
Smith said several bids were received for the project, but the association's governing board "hasn't had a chance to review all of them."
Once the bids are reviewed and a contract awarded, Smith said, construction is expected to begin as soon as the weather allows.
"We're looking to get it done by July or August," he said.
Smith said the new concrete walking trail is likely to be a hit with residents who use the park as a safe place to go walking for exercise.
"It will be an all-weather surface so we can use it year-round," he said. "It will be a nice, wide trail, and people will be able to exercise in a safe environment."
The Monticello Recreation Association established the park in 1994 -- the same year that longtime state Sen. Norman Merrell of Monticello died after a long battle with cancer. The group decided to name the park for Merrell, who served 24 years in the Missouri Senate and served three terms as Senate pro tem.
Herald-Whig news archives show work on a second phase of the park started in 1995. It involved finishing the shelter house, expanding the parking area and adding restrooms, a tennis/basketball court, more landscaping and a picnic area.
Smith said the park has been a popular gathering place over the years for local residents. "There's a lot of things to do there," he said.
Smith and his wife, Barb, have been members of the Monticello Recreation Association from the beginning and are glad to see action being taken to continue improving the park.
"We started more than 20 years ago, and we've built on it ever since," he said.