Missouri State Parks is considering whether to accept the donation of a 144-mile stretch of the former Rock Island rail line for development into the Rock Island Trail. The corridor is currently owned by Missouri Central Railroad, a subsidiary of Ameren.
Missouri State Parks needs to hear that there is strong public support for them to accept the land donation and build the trail.
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Missouri State Parks is also holding public input meetings on the potential trail.
Monday, Oct. 29, 2018
Scenic Regional Library
503 S. Olive St., Owensville
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018
Morgan County Library
600 N. Hunter St., Versailles
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018
Citizen’s Civic League Hall
301 Olive St., Meta
5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
- Rock Island corridor is 144 miles long and runs from Windsor to Beaufort
- Corridor would be donated by Missouri Central Railroad to Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and developed into a trail and managed by Missouri State Parks
- Rock Island Trail would intersect with the Katy Trail and create a 459-mile trail loop
- Cost to develop the Rock Island Trail is estimated between $67 – $87 million
- Cost to maintain the Rock Island Trail is estimated at $6,494 per mile per year ($935,136/year)
- Missouri State Parks would not build the trail all at once, but would build the trail in sections over several years, similar to the Katy Trail
- Missouri State Parks has not yet identified the funding necessary to build the trail
- DNR must make a decision whether or not to accept the donated land by February 21, 2019
- If DNR does not accept the land donation, another organization could potentially accept the land instead
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 initiated a discussion 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. 41% of Missourians live within 50 miles of the Rock Island Trail.
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 Trail will go 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 corridor 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 bike 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. Eldon and Versailles are both developing bike and pedestrian plans to encourage people using the trail to visit their towns.
- Regional connections. 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.