Rock Island Trail Update

                                                                          

Hundreds attended the dedication of the first 47 miles of the Rock Island Trail on December 10, 2016. The

Pleasant Hill to Windsor segment connects greater Kansas City to the 240 mile Katy Trail. Ameren will give an

additional 144 miles to the State of Missouri in late 2017 after salvage of the rails and ties is completed. See

http://www.railstotrails.org/trailblog/2016/december/05/missouris-rock-island-trail-state-park/ .

 

The endpoint farthest from KC is 35 miles from the Spirit of St. Louis Airport. For 89 of the 144 miles, the

corridor parallels two-lane highways through towns such as Stover, Versailles, Eldon, Belle and Owensville.

The salvaged rail corridor is relatively flat and resembles a dirt road. Improvement to the Katy Trail standard

will be as public and private funding is available. The spectacular bridges over the Gasconade, Osage and

Maries rivers are good candidates for naming by philanthropists or businesses interested in promoting family-

friendly activities, communities, tourism, economic development, health and wellness, or conservation.

 

Economic development and improved quality of life are the main motivators to the many towns created by

the Rock Island Railroad. The Katy Trail’s annual economic impact is more than $18 million, according to

https://mostateparks.com/sites/mostateparks/files/Katy_Trail_Economic_Impact_Report_Final.pdf. The Rock

Island will have even greater usage and economic impact per mile. Residents in dozens of towns will use it

daily for transportation and recreation. Improved quality of life will be positive for business development.

 

The Katy/Rock Island Trail system will be an internationally recognized loop. Travelers on the Katy Trail

marvel at the Missouri River and enjoy the heritage of communities like Augusta and Hermann. The Rock

Island Trail creates synergies by adding spectacular bridges and tunnels 2-5 football fields long, like the one

under Freeburg. Several loops will be possible from Kansas City and St. Louis. Amtrack offers several easy

one-way shuttles https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard . Stores and restaurants in sight from the

Rock Island are open most days, not just seasonally or on weekends. Increased tourism has already begun due to

the addition of the first 47 miles. Windsor is getting out of state lodging reservations for spring and summer.

 

Transportation safety and efficiency will improve on highways where the adjacent trail will provide an

attractive alternative for non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians. Examples include the 56 miles paralleling

Highway 52 from Windsor to Eldon and the 33 miles along highways 28 and 50 from Belle to Beaufort. State

Park planners want to allow horses and buggies on the trail in the Versailles area. Large numbers of Groffdale

Conference Mennonites now share the two-lane Highway 52 at 5-10 mph with motorists preferring 60 mph.

 

Families and youth groups enjoy day trips and bicycle touring where it is safe and accessible. Kansas City

area Boy Scout troops are already planning multi-day bike trips on the Rock Island and Katy trails. Four towns

in the first 47 miles offer dining and camping. It is 28 miles from Pleasant Hill to Chilhowee, 8 more to Leeton,

then another 11 to Windsor and the Katy. Windsor has restaurants, a motel, other lodging, and camping.

 

A Safe Route to School will be created by the trail at Owensville. Their schools are just east of Highway 19

and the town is mostly to the west, so students are not been allowed to walk or bicycle to school for safety

reasons. That will change as the completed trail will pass under Highway 19. The trail will also provide a safe alternative to Highway 28 for students traveling to school from many miles to the east.

Rural health and childhood obesity rates improve where residents have safe places to walk and bicycle.

Rail-trails are flat, so they encourage activity even for those with weight or mobility issues.

 

The City of Belle is building more than a mile of trail in early 2017 to the specifications of MO State Parks.

Construction was sped up a year or more after MoRIT helped the City of Belle and Ameren broker a special

agreement to transfer interim responsibility for the segment to the city. Funding is 80% from a Recreational

Trails Program grant with the 20% local match being the construction by city personnel and equipment. Belle

plans to renovate its former MFA as a welcome center, with wraparound decking and other inviting spaces.

 

Eldon has requested responsibility for 3 miles of corridor through their city limits. A donor with local ties has

given Eldon $150,000 in matching money to rebuild a former railroad depot as a welcome center, museum and

offices for their Chamber of Commerce. It will be at the front door of downtown Eldon near its community

center. Lake Regional Health Center is developing an outpatient care facility next to the trail. A former

manufacturing facility is being renovated as a senior care center. Both of those health care facilities were

located to take advantage of the trail as a new community asset for transportation and exercise for their patients.

 

Kansas City’s Jackson County has purchased 17.7 miles of former Rock Island Railroad corridor from the

Truman Sports Complex on I-70 through Raytown and Lee’s Summit. Trail will be constructed in 2017-18, with

longer term goals of adding commuter rail and/or buses. Area communities are working on alternative routes for

the 4-5 mile “Greenwood Gap” where there is no rail corridor available from Lee’s Summit Trail will be constructed in 2017-18, with longer term goals of adding commuter rail and/or buses. Area communities are working on alternative routes for the 4-5 mile “Greenwood Gap” where there is no rail corridor available from Lee’s Summit to Pleasant Hill. See http://www.jacksongov.org/776/Rock-Island-Rail-Corridor-Authority .

 

In St. Louis, http://greatriversgreenway.org/ and http://trailnet.org/ are eager for the Rock Island Trail to

approach their regional trail network. The Katy Trail is just a few miles away at Washington, where the new

Highway 47 Bridge over the Missouri River will be bike-friendly. Further east on the Katy Trail, the new

Highway 64-40 Boone Bridge connecting to Chesterfield Bottoms is also bike-friendly.

 

Springfield wants to connect their 35 mile http://www.friscohighlinetrail.org/ ending at Bolivar to the Rock

Island Trail. The route will include Warsaw, connecting its trail system to the Rock Island Trail at Cole Camp.

Jefferson City is discussing connections between the Katy and Rock Island Trails at Eugene or Eldon.

More than 4,200 people follow https://www.facebook.com/morockislandtrail/ and 20+ are added each week.

Followers are nearly 50/50 male-female. Nearly half (49%) are ages 35-54, 18% are 55-64, 9% are 65+.

Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MoRIT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit coalition of citizens and communities

dedicated to preserving the Rock Island corridor as a linear park. See www.rockislandtrail.org for more

information or to join MoRIT online.

 

Greg Harris, Executive Director

Missouri Rock Island Trail

573-202-9632 and moritdirector@gmail.com

 

Note: this is our understanding of the facts. Feedback can be provided to moritdirector@gmail.com

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