Advocacy Alert: State of Missouri reconsidering Rock Island Trail

Rock Island Trail map

At the end of 2016, Governor Nixon announced that a 144-mile stretch of the former Rock Island rail line was on track for transfer to the State of Missouri by the end of 2017, to be developed into the Rock Island Trail.

Now state officials under Governor Greitens are reconsidering whether to accept the planned donation of the rail corridor by Ameren.

The Department of Natural Resources is asking for comments about the Rock Island Trail. We are asking all trail supporters to take a couple of minutes to complete the survey at the link below. Your input will help us let the Governor know there is strong support for the trail.

Please share your support of the Rock Island Trail through this quick Department of Natural Resources survey.

Background:

The Rock Island Railway was built in the early 1900s. The small towns that developed along its length began to decline when rail traffic was discontinued in the 1980s. There are now plans to turn this unused resource into an easily accessible walking and bicycling trail, and once again encourage economic development in the communities along its corridor.

The first 47 miles of the Rock Island Trail opened in December 2016, connecting greater Kansas City to the 240-mile Katy Trail at Windsor. Windsor is the crossroads of the Katy and Rock Island Trails. In 2015, Ameren entered into an agreement with Missouri State Parks to donate the next 144 miles to the State of Missouri under the Rails-To-Trails laws. The next 144 miles of the corridor go through the middle of 23 towns, including Versailles, Eldon, Owensville and Gerald.

Why support the Rock Island Trail?

  • Economic development. The Katy Trail generates an 18:1 return-on-investment to the state’s economy, with 400,000 annual users. The Rock Island goes through the middle of towns so it will have greater daily usage and economic impact per mile.
  • International tourist destination. When completed, the Rock Island and Katy Trails will form a 459-mile world class trail loop unlike any other.
  • Transportation safety and efficiency. An estimated 30 miles of the next section of the trail are within the city limits of small towns, so local residents will be able to use the trail for transportation and recreation on a daily basis. Planners are considering allowing horses and buggies on the trail in the Versailles area, to accommodate local Mennonites who are currently forced to ride on a two-lane highway.
  • Safe Routes to School. In Owensville, the schools are just east of the highway and the town is mostly to the west, so students are not allowed to walk or bicycle to school for safety reasons. That will change as the completed trail will pass under the highway, creating a safe route to school for local children.
  • Local community support. Many of the towns along the Rock Island corridor are already making plans on how to use the trail to strengthen their communities. Belle plans to renovate its former MFA as a welcome center, with wraparound decking and other inviting spaces. Eldon plans to take advantage of the trail as a new community asset for transportation, recreation and exercise for clients at local medical and assisted living facilities. Eldon has already received $150,000 in matching money to rebuild a former railroad depot as a welcome center, museum and offices for their Chamber of Commerce. Springfield wants to connect their 35-mile Frisco Highline Trail ending at Bolivar to the Rock Island Trail, including Warsaw’s trail network. Jefferson City is discussing connections between the Katy and Rock Island Trails at Eugene or Eldon.

The development of the Rock Island Trail is an enormous opportunity for the State of Missouri, and one we should not allow to slip away.

Map image credit: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Gasconade River Train Bridge