Episode 5: Ralph Pfemmer – The Future Great City podcast by nextSTL

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It’s nextSTL.com in a podcast! In this episode we speak with Ralph Pfremmer Executive Director of Trailnet. The organization’s mission is to “lead in fostering healthy, active and vibrant communities where walking, bicycling and the use of public transit are a way of life” through programs, transportation planning, and policy initiatives. Most recently, Trailnet weighed in on plans to repave and add bike lanes to Gravois Avenue. Under former Executive Director Ann Mack led Trailnet’s effort to oppose the South County Connector, a MoDOT road widening project also opposed by the communities through which it would pass.

Prior to joining the staff at Trailnet in October 2014, Ralph was the CEO and founder of Pfoodman Holdings, a multi-unit food service management company serving education, business/retail, and senior living sectors. He used active living and sustainability as a platform for business development, promoting his company’s culture by establishing a unique presence in communities.

The Trailnet challenge, and now Ralph’s, is to work with partner organizations – Great Rivers Greenway, East-West Gateway, Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, MoDOT, St. Louis City, St. Louis County, and others. Ralph joined the cycling community after a health scare in 1998 that motivated him to incorporate exercise into his daily routine and begin a healthier way of life.

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  • Riggle

    The constant complaining in this town is infuriating. The chair of this organization complaining that there are too many layers of local interest. Ok, then disband you’re non profit and let GRG do it all. And if they need a non profit arm atleast roll bike st louis into grg, and roll trailnet into grg foundation. If the leaders of these groups think there are too many groups why don’t they combine? Its like Fran Slay complaining about city bureaucracy, you are the MAYOR, FIX IT!

    • Alex Ihnen

      I think you misunderstand the nature of the criticism. For every capitalized “FIX IT” offered, there are actually, real issues that aren’t “fixed” by one person. There’s complaining, then there’s complaining. It’s my opinion that would should criticize those working to make St. Louis a better place, and recognizing the challenges in doing so, a little less.

      • Riggle

        Thats fair, probably just frustration from the GRG public meeting. “Isn’t it great how grants trail has saved crestwood?” Yeah, sure, so about the City “Yeah no, those are long term goals, nothing this year”

        • Alex Ihnen

          Ha. So true. IMO – the mission and projects of GRG are in need of reevaluation. It’s on auto-pilot, and with $10Ms. While professing to only be able to do greenways, $Ms have gone to the Arch grounds and now the Loop Trolley – both which are questionable uses of taxpayer money through GRG. And GRG acting as a fiduciary agent for the Arch grounds project clearly wasn’t in its founding charter either.

          • Riggle

            At least I think they look like good infrastructure, even if it is a bait and switch with them dollars.

    • I wasn’t complaining, however I did give a brief perspective as to how Trailnet and GRG differ and some examples of the challenges that our partners in local government experience being underfunded. Trailnet happens to work very well with all. It’s our job to bring things to light but also bring solutions. These are seen in our traffic calming demonstrations, our public engagement programing and multi media broadcast. Perhaps that is where the confusion lies. We are advocates, after all.

      I might also say that “letting” a government agency write a plan for the future has its limitations, especially if you are a city with limited resources or better yet, GRG who sees the hand of everyone reaching for their money. You will find that their work on the Gateway Bike Plan and Bike STL is indicative of their willingness to provide catalyst. But they don’t really want to own these. Trailnet is an advocate for both while providing influence from our members and constituents–a desire for safer, connected travel alternatives to that of the automobile. How about a network of protected bikeways connecting our rich cultural assets?–connected to GRG’s greenways?–to Metro and Bi-States connections? IMHO, government shouldn’t write a plan for the people. Cross sector partnerships and coalition building help people write a plan for themselves. If there is criticism, it belongs simply with it being our condition, which is our biggest opportunity as a region. Nobody complains about opportunity.

      • Riggle

        Nice response, couldn’t agree more.

  • Not sure if Ralph was involved with the process at the time, but I’d love to hear more about the previously-proposed Trailnet HQ at the Laclede Power Station.

    Of all the projects proposed for the North Riverfront, that was the one that I was most excited about — partially because it restores a beautiful building to active, modern use and partially because it’d created a north-south “center point” from which additional improvement efforts could radiate.

    When the plan fell through, I was bummed, to say the least, as it was hard to believe that building would find another strong active owner and/or tenant. The last five years have born that out. Glad to see the stadium plan won’t take it, but here’s hoping somebody does something with it soon!

    • John R

      I wouldn’t doubt something like that old plan resurfaces as part of GRG’s plans… they own it now, which is good news.