UPDATE: In December 2016, Missouri State Parks formally announced that Rock Island Trail State Park will now be known as the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park.
On Sept. 17, 2015, on the Katy Trail in Jefferson City, Missouri, Gov. Jay Nixon officially announced the planned completion next year of 47 miles of trail from Windsor to Pleasant Hill.
This is an important development for Missouri trails; the segment, to be named Rock Island State Park, will serve as an important connection between the Katy Trail and the Kansas City metro area.
However, this project also comes on the heels of another significant announcement made in the summer of 2014—the railbanking of 144 miles of the former Rock Island Line that runs from Windsor to Beaufort, Missouri. Together, these developments take on epic significance, suggesting the potential creation of a world-class trail system spanning the entire state.
To rehash: The 144 miles of Rock Island Line corridor in question haven't seen train traffic in more than 30 years. Last July, through a massive mobilization effort led by RTC and the State of Missouri—more than 12,500 people helped successfully urge Ameren EU, the corridor’s owner, to railbank the segment for rail-trail conversion.
The trail project is a great victory for the rail-trail movement, creating a recreation corridor for hundreds of thousands of people and a tourism engine to bolster local economies. The corridor also intersects with the 237-mile Katy Trail in Windsor, making possible a 450-mile trail network stretching from St. Louis to Kansas City.
The Katy trail receives more than 400,000 visitors per year. A 2011 study determined an economic impact of more than $18 million annually to the region (while being responsible for an estimated 367 jobs), with 87 percent of people surveyed for the study indicating that it was the Katy Trail that brought them to the area. It’s clear that the connections the new trail segments will bring could have a transformational impact for generations to come.
For the Rock Island Trail project, in particular, RTC continues to work with local partners, including Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MoRIT) and Missouri State Parks—which is currently in ongoing railbanking negotiations with Ameren EU. RTC has been providing technical assistance to all parties.
Through the new Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund, as well as other funding, RTC was also able to assist MoRIT in hiring a professional executive director to oversee their on-the-ground efforts. Having permanent MoRIT staff working on this project in Missouri was a huge step necessary for the trail’s eventual development.
We continue to monitor the situation at the Surface Transportation Board—who confirms all railbanking applications—and in Missouri, and stand ready to assist our friends there in seeing this project move forward.
With the 47-mile project set to become a reality and negotiations for the 144-mile Rock Island Trail project underway, we predict incredible things for the state of Missouri.
Stay tuned for future updates on these exciting initiatives.