Bicyclists in many states don’t even have one cross-state rail-trail to ride. Those in Missouri, already home to the popular 237-mile-long Katy Trail, could be getting another.
The owners of the old Rock Island Railroad announced plans to railbank the 145-mile-long railroad right-of-way, marking the first step toward turning the east-west corridor into a rail-trail.
The tracks run between Windsor and Beaufort, although trains haven’t run on them for some 30 years.
In addition, another 46 miles of the Rock Island Railroad between Windsor and Pleasant Hill was railbanked earlier this year, and local communities are in the process of purchasing another 22 miles of railroad corridor from Pleasant Hill to Kansas City.
What that means, writes Brent Hugh at Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation (MOBikeFed), is that Missouri will have an interconnected statewide trail network of over 450 miles. The trail system would connect Kansas City with St. Louis.
“The opportunities for tourism, recreation, and economic development along the entire Rock Island and Katy Trail corridors are tremendous,” he wrote
Rails to Trails Conservancy was among the parties that active
ly lobbied Ameren, the owner of the Rock Island Railroad property, to make the corridor available for a trail. RTC President Keith Laughlin said:
“This moment represents one of the great victories of the rail-trail movement over the past decade, and is a testament to the strong voice of rail-trail advocates and the growing recognition of the importance of trails and trail-use to communities everywhere.”
MOBikeFed, RTC, the grassroots group Missouri Rock Island Trail communities (MoRIT) can all share the credit in getting the railroad corridor down the path toward trail status. So can the more than 12,000 persons who signed petitions in favor of the corridor abandonment.
Hugh warned that there are still plenty more steps in the process before the trail becomes a reality. While trail sections near population centers could be opened as quickly as three years, a completed trail across the state could take decades.