by Matt Boehner, ASLA
Running is one of the most popular and practiced sports worldwide. In the U.S. alone, more than 64 million people went jogging or running in 2016, representing a nearly 300% per capita increase since 1990. Relieving stress and having fun are among the top reasons Americans continue to run; however, within the growing trend are competitive races on and off road, with the passion for this starting at the youth level with the sport of cross country.
While cross country running is by no means a new individual or team sport, the planning trend for parks and recreation departments has been traditional active sports such as baseball/softball, basketball, and soccer facilities. Cross country courses historically were set up to run through parks or golf courses following simple mowed paths and painted lines, with no real infrastructure or permanence. Columbia Parks and Recreation (CPRD) and a unique partnership with the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) and the University of Missouri Athletics (MU) aims to race to the front of the growing running trend of dedicated cross country courses with the development of a championship cross country course as a stand-alone park amenity that can host a variety of running events for all skill levels.