Revitalizing St. Joseph History to spark New economic development

charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a mutual author of the plan.

National Park Service Superintendent Aaron Mahr welcomes the Charrette group at the Pony Express Museum in St. Joseph, MO.


Let the Charrette Begin!



St. Joseph News-Press

November 02, 2018

The nation's leading agency for national parks will be in St. Joseph in November as the city looks to revitalize some of its most historic locations.

Making the trek all the way from Santa Fe, New Mexico, landscape architects and two trail historians from the National Parks Service will spend four days getting a pulse of St. Joseph's history come Nov. 5.

During that time, National Park Service members will meet with local stakeholders, speak with historians and analyze a treasure chest of information related to two historic St. Joseph trails: the Pony Express and California Gold Rush Trails, the St. Joseph News-Press reported.

Historic Preservation Planning Consultant Lauren Manning — who has spent much of the year researching documents and artifacts on the trails in preparation for the National Park Service's arrival — said the Parks Service's utilization of trail history is used often as a redevelopment tool for areas.

"They'll be compiling that information, figuring out how to interpret that, bring that history back to St. Joe through signage, interpretation and riverfront development," Manning said.

Sites in St. Joseph — where trail riders began before heading west across the river — are examples of history that have been forgotten by historians and local residents, Manning said.

"The Pony Express Trail and the California Gold Rush Trail start on the Kansas side, but it all started in St. Joseph though," Manning said. "They're trying to connect that portion back to the trail."

Manning spoke about the eagerness she's seen from Parks Service members on the opportunity to document and analyze the historical significance of St. Joseph's trails.

Creating digitized pages of century newspaper ads, diaries and other documents, Manning and others can offer Parks Service members insight into those locations.

"They're very excited," Manning said. "They felt like, 'We should have done this long ago' and they feel like they're essentially indebted to St. Joe."

Manning said by bringing the trail's history back into the public eye, it will hopefully work to kick-start development.

Like many others, the project serves as another initiative in St. Joseph's pursuit to revitalize its downtown and riverfront areas.

"Downtown has done a great job as it is," Manning said. "I know the city has been talking about riverfront redesign for years so this is just an extra reason to do it."


Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri,

An AP Member Exchange shared by the St. Joseph News-Press.


“OCTA's project in St. Joseph, Missouri has gone viral, with papers from coast to coast picking up our story. Even the Miami (FL) Herald prominently ran it. OCTA and the Gateway Chapter are hosting our National Park Service partners this week at the Pony Express Museum as we make plans to bring trails to life in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas! Congrats OCTAns on reaching more Americans with our story! ”

— Facebook Post by Travis Boley


Charrette GOALS

  • Create a unique California and Pony Express experience that will attract new visitors and engage St. Joseph residents.

  • Raise awareness of and relevance for St. Joseph’s role in history.

  • Develop the national historic trail experience in the St. Joseph area to be inviting, safe, and accessible to a diverse audience of people.

  • Connect national historic trail sites in the project area together in an understandable and meaningful way.

Lee Kreutzer from the National Park Services provides an overview of the National Trails System.

Lee Kreutzer from the National Park Services provides an overview of the National Trails System.


Preferred Park Elements

Results from the group breakout discussions and ranking exercises:

Trail Programmatic Elements

• Guided options

• Self-guided options for anytime

• Restored or preserved structures

• Engages the visitor in the history and story of the area

• Options for walking and/or biking

• Trail is recognizable and visually special

• Safe for visitors

Site Programmatic Elements

• Create connections to other existing and proposed future trails/sites

• Green space

• Connection to the river

• Restrooms

• Signing and wayfinding

• A special one-of-a-kind attraction to draw visitors

• Clean

Historic Trail Elements

• Sculptures

• Clearly marked trail

• Pony Express and/or California Trail retracement experience

• Physical map of the trail

• Wayside exhibits

• Lots of visual elements

• Interactive learning tools for kids



Design & Interpretive Concepts



  • Attract new visitors and engage St. Joseph’s residents

  • Reveal layers of trail history in an urban site

  • Raise awareness of and relevance for St. Joseph’s role in American history

  • Describe outfitting pioneers, emigrants, and adventurers

  • Identify relevant historic locations in town

  • Recognize diversity -Indians, Platte Purchase

  • Develop untold stories

  • Connect to additional trails or historic routes


Using the St. Joseph waterfront park, downtown, and retracement path to connect visitors with the Pony Express and California Trails heritage of St. Joseph, and its role in shaping the history of the American West.


St. Joseph Interpretation Points

  • Exhibit style –one shape, two trails, three areas

  • Pony Express silhouettes

  • Sculpture area

  • Historic buildings

St. Joseph Interpretation Points

  • In the ground

  • Medallion logos

  • Exhibits

St. Joseph Interpretation Points

  • Digital media (multiple types)

  • Website

  • Mobile app

  • Virtual or augmented reality

  • Rack card

  • Market the trails experience

  • No on-site paper publication