Thousands of Cherokee Native Americans died walking the Trail of Tear in the 1830s. Now, a section of that trail in Springfield, Mo is being turned into a walking path.
Ozark Greenways’ Executive Director Terry Whaley said they acquired an abandoned railroad track about six years ago. They originally planned for it to be an urban connecting greenway. Then, three years ago, the County Historical Society was researching the Trail of Tears and realized the section of railroad was part of the original trail. Whaley said this finding changed their plans for the trail.
“It will be really low key in terms of development,” he said, “and our objective here is to interpret the Trail of Tears story for current residents that live in Springfield and visitors and honor the past.”
He said part of this low-key plan is laying a gravel pathway instead of a traditional 12-foot-wide asphalt walkway.
Jack Shryock of the Southeastern Cherokee Council has been volunteering with the project this week. He said not laying asphalt will help him maintain a connection with those who died on the trail.
“To us, it’s being nearer to where our ancestors actually walked and suffered on that path,” Shryock said.
Shryock said he has already felt a spiritual connection working on the trail. He said he hopes this will transfer to other Native Americans who will visit the trail.
“It was very meaningful to myself and to the other who were there because we feel very close to our heritage,” Shryock said, “and we know that eventually that there’s going to be a lot of Native American people who are going to be able to walk that trail and feel the same things that we do now.”
Whaley said there has been a lot of community support for the project, but now, that needs to be transferred into funding. He hopes the project will be completed by the end of 2013.