An Interview with Lori Livingston from Springfield nonprofit TrailSpring
When visionaries and urban designers talk of community renewal or revitalization they often do so with the grandiosity of Central Park or the Manhattan Highline in mind; big swooping gestures of greenery, urban engagement, and architectural grandeur. Long dramatic pauses, artist mock ups, minutes of applause from the crowd presentation; it’s the stuff of TED Talks and documentaries. Talks like these are usually reserved for the bigger cities of course, the coasts, New York, Chicago, LA, Atlanta, but what about the expanse in between? The fly over states? It might not be the Manhattan Highline, but what Lori Livingston has in mind will blaze a trail into the Ozark landscape that will keep locals and even the folks on the coasts looking to the Midwest as an escape from the urban sprawl.
Livingston heads the Springfield, Missouri nonprofit, TrailSpring, a solely by volunteer organization determined to make the Ozarks more accessible than ever for mountain bikers, adventurers and hikers in mind. In the latest episode of Life in Motion, Jeremy Lux chats with Livingston about TrailSpring, her upcoming SingleTrack Mind Festival, and future plans.
If there’s anything that vouches for Livingston’s commitment to the TrailSpring project it’s her upbringing: “I grew up here in Springfield, Missouri…we did move around a little but for the most part I’ve spent my life in Missouri. I call myself a Midwest girl.”
As for hobbies, trail running, and mountain biking top the list for Livingston, but as to how and why she got into action sports is a bit of a John Hughes rom com; a high school crush.
“Well, you know, as all things go in high school when you're a girl, there’s usually a guy,” says Livingston, “But I had a crush on him and he was into mountain biking and that was just how I thought I needed to be to spend time with him.”
Livingston admits, that first date/trip was an utter disaster. She recalls falling off the trail, landing in a tick nest, and crying, but little did Livingston know that awful trip would ignite a lifelong passion. Years later and mountain biking has taken her across 47 states and three countries.
“The better question is where have I not been,” Livingston quips.
With those experiences gained and memories made, Livingston hopes to bring the same thrill of mountain biking and adventuring to the greater Springfield area.
“We really believe that trails enhance the attractiveness of our area and that can contribute positively to the health and wellbeing of the community,” says Livingston, “You hear about brain drain and everyone graduating from college and then running away somewhere else… We want young professionals to choose to stay here and we want to give them a reason to do that.”
An example of this is Two River Bike Park, a 15-mile multiuse trail located right outside Springfield that’s open to the public. A proposed expansion to the trail christened, Dirt 66 would add 66 new miles to the trail that would run from the Sac River to Fellows Lake. It’s a big project that Livingston expects to draw people from all over to Springfield.
To help promote Dirt 66 and Trail Spring, is the 5th annual SingleTrack Mind Festival; three days of music, races, food, and trails nestled at Two Rivers. All the proceeds at SingleTrack will go towards building new trails as well as promoting awareness for the program. But none of this would be possible without the help of TrailSpring's team of volunteers who log hours pruning, raking, tamping, and picking up trash across the trails.
Last year the fest pulled in 3,200 people from 12 states; this year Livingston expects attendance to only go up from there. The event kicks off Labor Day weekend from August 31 to September 2.
“Missouri is smack dab in the middle of the United States. You can get to anywhere in 20 hours. So, everyone that's passing from coast to coast or from north to south might be coming through,” says Livingston, begging the question, “Why not be a landing pad?
For Livingston, the key to bringing people to the community is to cooperate and interact like one. That means local brands and organizations like TrailSpring and Illumine Collect working together to sponsor and promote events that enrich our community and make people proud of their area.
“We need more people to have a sense of ownership and pride in their community,” says Livingston, “Springfield is growing, it’s a big community and we’re a diverse ecosystem with people from all walks of life.”
For Livingston, TrailSpring is part of a greater picture of Springfield, one where the community is not only engaged with their environment, but they’re engaged with each other. Livingston and her organization are doing big things for southwest Missouri; you can spot them by the trail they will blaze.
SingleTrack Mind will run from August 31 to September 2, 2018 Labor Day weekend. You can register for general admission at www.singletrackmindfestival.com for three days of partying, food, live music, and races. TrailSpring can also be found on Instagram and Facebook and you can learn more about volunteering for them on their website, www.trailspring.org.