Exciting news coming out of the Cornhusker State …
Thanks to the efforts of Cowboy Trail West, Inc. and the Nebraska Game and Park Commission (NGPC), 3 miles (two sections) of the Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail in Gordon and Rushville have just been completed, culminating in a public dedication on Oct. 3, 2015.
The Cowboy Trail follows the route of the old Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between the towns of Valentine and Norfolk in Nebraska. One of the country’s longest rail-trails (right now it clocks in at third longest behind only the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Washington and Katy Trail State Park in Missouri)—it currently stretches for 195 miles through some of the Midwest’s most intriguing landscapes, which feature farmsteads, forests, prairie lands, river valleys and the largest grass-covered dunes (Sandhill country) in the western hemisphere. When complete, the mostly crushed gravel trail will stretch another 126 miles to Chadron.
The original corridor fell into disuse in 1992, after which RTC bought the corridor and donated it to the state of Nebraska for trail development. It was designated a National Recreation Trail in the National Trails System in 2001.
In a press release for the dedication, NGPC stated that the trail gets almost 20,000 users annually. Additionally, the organization is working on a new management plan to promote even more recreational use and involve the local communities in habitat restoration.
The new trail segments include three bridges and benches, and a crushed limestone surface. Work began in the summer of 2013, with Cowboy Trail West, Inc. cleaning up railroad ties and trash and NGPC overseeing contracted ballast removal. The limestone surface was funded with profits of the salvaged ballast.
Cowboy Trail West, Inc. formed in January 2012, and held its first fundraiser (a 5k) in March of that year. The passionate group of advocates had been lobbying as early as July 2011 to encourage the county and state to move forward with the project. Their vision has now come to fruition, and future developments are expected.
An Oct. 1 NEBRASKAland article by Justin Haag states that “While the trail is open for use, the organizers are working to get more crushed limestone added to the surface.”
Additionally, there are 12 more miles of trail between Gordon and Rushville that organizers have earmarked for future surfacing.
For more information on the new trail segments and the dedication (which drew more than 150 people), check out Haag’s article.