Active Roadmap Case Study: Excelsior Springs, MO

For our new report—an Active Roadmap: Best Practices in Rural Mobility—the SGA team interviewed rural communities across the country that have implemented successful strategies to improve multimodal transportation access to key destinations. This could be through transportation and/or development decisions such as improving transit access, adopting a Complete Streets policy, thoughtful community engagement methods, investing in downtown revitalization, and more.

Read the report and learn more about the eight other communities we profiled here.


Location: Excelsior Springs, MO
Population: 11,688
Typologies: Traditional main street; Edge
Key takeaway: By applying a combination of strategies to support local businesses during a global health crisis, Excelsior Springs was able to minimize negative effects to their local economy, continue to attract visitors, and maintain the healthy, stable community that existed pre-pandemic.

Joggers running with their backs facing on a train through green grass and spring trees with a building in the background

Located 30 miles northeast of central Kansas City, MO, Excelsior Springs was built as a “health community,” attracting visitors who wanted to access one of the five natural supplies of ferro-manganese mineral water in the world. This spring is responsible for the growth of Excelsior Springs as a tourist and health treatment center.

Much of Excelsior Springs’ local economy today depends on visitors and tourists. Therefore, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, the town was faced with a huge challenge to support the economy and to provide support to local businesses, while making sure residents, business owners, and visitors were safe. A combination of various successful local efforts did the trick, and the city reported that none of their local businesses closed because of the pandemic. While there was a 22% decrease in visits between 2019 and 2020, the visits were back up in 2021 with an increase of 33% compared to 2020 and were even 4% higher than the pre-pandemic numbers in 2019.

“We have to think about it as being a right-sized community. Because we are a tourist destination. We want to remain a destination. We don’t want to grow into the next largest city next to us. It doesn’t really benefit our growth as a tourist community. We’d like green space between us and someone else. We will lose our identity if we become an extension of Kansas City.” – Melinda Mehaffy, Economic Development Director, Excelsior Springs, MO

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Downtown Excelsior Partnership (i.e., their Mainstreet Program) began hosting Facebook Live meetings with merchants on a private page to collaborate on the best ways to support each other. City restaurants quickly transitioned to curbside pickups. City staff saw more people eating outdoors and using their walking trails and parks more often. The City allowed for special parking signage to go up along the sidewalk or in parking lots reserving parking for curbside pickups. A few of their local businesses also put chairs and tables outside their buildings for public use and have continued the curbside pickup.

One major concern from merchants in downtown Excelsior Springs was that they weren’t set up to go virtual. The city immediately realized that with much uncertainty about the pandemic, an online presence was critical for their local businesses to succeed.

Morgansites, a local business with over 20 years of experience in helping area businesses get online, offered to build free websites with online e-commerce, not only for businesses located in downtown Excelsior Springs but also in the surrounding communities of Kearney, Lawson, Raytown, and Richmond. Any business negatively impacted by the pandemic was invited to take advantage of this opportunity, which included a professionally built six-page e-commerce website at no cost for six months.

Fifteen businesses took advantage of this opportunity and saw the direct benefits of online revenue streams throughout the emergency shutdown. On top of that, the city reported that the businesses have continued to benefit from diverse revenue streams through reopening and recovery. Morgansites’ service provided a chance for businesses to survive a time of uncertainty, without fear of having to shut down permanently.


Complete Streets Rural Development