Park Hills city officials and employees celebrated the official opening of the Donnely-LaMear Trailhead into St. Joe State Park on Friday.

State park administrators and others who were instrumental in the project's planning and construction were at Friday's ribbon cutting to witness the culmination of their efforts.

Located just off the Fairgrounds Drive exit off of US 67, the new trailhead provides visitors access to St. Joe State Park's ORV trail systems. The project was a joint program between Missouri State Parks and the City of Park Hills.

With several people in attendance for the ribbon cutting, outgoing Park Hills Mayor Daniel Naucke took the opportunity to recognize city employees from the Street Department and the Parks and Recreation Department.

Naucke invited the department employees, council members, City Administrator Mark McFarland, and incoming Mayor John Clark in front of the crowd to be acknowledged for their roles in completing the trailhead.

"This is a good group; they've worked very hard," said Naucke. "We didn't have the money to finish the project, but these people put it together, and we finished it."

When the project's budgeted funds were exhausted due to unexpected setbacks, such as a lift station installation in 2019, city workers stepped in to finish the remaining work at the site.

The mayor emphasized that the project was far from an easy undertaking to complete. He explained that the city received valuable guidance from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

St. Joe State Park Manager Eric Gregory noted that the trailhead had been open since January, but Friday's ceremony marked the area's official opening.

"It's been a long time coming," said Gregory. "I think Danny [Naucke] will agree with me that reaching today has been a long journey — maybe just a few headaches involved. But thanks to a lot of hard work by a lot of people, we're finally here."

Gregory acknowledged several individuals in attendance for their efforts on the trailhead, including rangers, park maintenance workers, and other park officials, such as St. Joe State Park Assistant Superintendent Sandy McCain and St. Joe State Park Assistant Superintendent Jill Bryant.

The park manager also thanked the volunteer group Friends of St. Joe Missouri Dirt Riders for all they do to make the park a great place to visit.

"I don't get the opportunity to say thank you and acknowledge them in settings like this, but I would like to say thank you today for everything everybody does here," Gregory added. "I can't say enough."

Deputy State Park Director Brian Stith explained that St. Joe State Park welcomed more than 440,000 visitors in 2020. He noted that the trailhead adds another inviting attraction to the many already offered at St. Joe State Park.

"St. Joe is well known for its trails and ORV use, but there's a little bit of something for everyone within the park," said Stith. "In addition to those ORV trails, we have equestrian trails; bicycle trails; mountain bike trails; hiking trails; kayaking; swimming; fishing; there's a shooting range; there's camping. There's even an RC (remote control) flying field.

"So it's a very complex facility with a lot of moving parts, and so I'm going to, again, go back and say thank you for the staff for 2020," he mentioned.

Stith went on to explain that park officials are anticipating great things resulting from the trailhead addition.

"We're really predicting that this is going to be a very busy, busy place; this spot right here," he said. "We anticipate that it will get a lot of use and become a very, very popular way to access the park, and we're really looking forward to that. We're looking forward to the partnership and the continued collaboration with the City of Park Hills, and I'd just like to thank them for their efforts in that regard and all of their staff as well [for their help] in this development."

Park Hills Leadington Chamber of Commerce Vice President Ronni Conley closed out the ceremony, explaining the chamber's confidence in the trailhead as an attraction that will bring more visitors to the area.

"The Park Hills-Leadington Chamber is super excited to be a part of the project, and we want to thank everybody who has taken the time to come out to support the community and the parks," said Conley. "We wanted to be a part of this new project and expect it to bring in great economic growth; bring in lots of new people into the area that maybe have not ever been here.

"[The trailhead] is something new for them to enjoy, and then possibly bring in much more money for us in the area," she said. "So we've got a lot to offer, and this is only going to add to the many things that we have here in this area."

Entrance to the new 2,200-foot long trail from the trailhead location is available Thursdays through Sundays from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

There are two parking lots located at the trailhead entrance, restroom facilities, and a gate booth with an attendant. The trailhead's hiking and biking trail are also open and accessible free of charge.

Currently, ORV permits for St. Joe Park are available by online purchase only. Permits may be purchased by visiting the Missouri State Parks website's permit page.

For a complete list of ORV rules and regulations, visit the Missouri State Park's Off-Road Vehicle Riding Rules Page.

Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at bradford@dailyjournalonline.com

Originally published on dailyjournalonline.com, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.

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