Rail-trail supporters in Missouri and across America have been holding their breath these past few weeks as they await a decision that could have lasting ramifications for the state.
What will be Ameren's decision on the fate of the 145-mile Rock Island Line corridor? Will it be sold into private ownership or preserved in public ownership for development of a rail-trail? We expect an announcement any day.
Here at RTC, too, everyone has their fingers crossed. All our staff members feel the weight of an opportunity that comes along but once in a very long while: the chance to preserve a connected corridor of such length is rare, and getting rarer.
It's why we stepped forward and made a bid that, if accepted by Ameren, will result in the corridor being donated to Missouri State Parks and preserved through railbanking.
Although a single rail-trail of 145 miles would be one of the longest in the country, what's particularly exciting is the corridor's connection in Windsor to the iconic 237-mile Katy Trail. Looking at this map, you can see that, together, the two rail-trails would create a loop of almost 400 miles and a remarkable destination for trail tourists.
Looking further ahead, these connected rail-trails would form the core of a trail system stretching more than 500 miles across the entire state, ultimately connecting St. Louis and Kansas City. Very cool.
So what's happening now?
Ameren Missouri, the utility company that owns the corridor, is weighing up a number of bids for the corridor—ours among them. We are not certain when they will make their decision, but rest assured that we will let you know as soon as they do.
Meanwhile, the people of Missouri are super excited for the benefits that such a destination trail system would bring to their communities. Mike Hendricks' story in the Kansas City Star yesterday offers a unique insight into how much Missouri businesspeople and leaders have riding on the proposal: "It's a great, great opportunity for Missouri," says Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders.
Whether no news is good news, at the moment we can't say. What we can say is that it is because of the people that contributed to our Rock Island Line campaign and our thousands of supporters that we are able to maintain a legal and trail assistance staff that can respond to opportunities like this one, and fight to preserve rail corridors for trail development nationwide.
Stay tuned. And breathe. But keep those fingers crossed.