Missouri Blueways Report--how to identify and convert Missouri rails to trails


Trails Chair Jeff Huff has recently completed a monumental report on rail corridors in Missouri, Missouri Blueways Report (available in PDF format or MSWord format).

This report outlines how to identify potential rail corridors for conversion to trails and then how to go about turning that corridor into a trail. It covers practical and legal issues. The report also includes a map of all known Missouri rail corridors--both those currently in use and corridors that are abandoned.

A very high resolution version of the Missouri Blueways Map is here (3400x4400 pixels).

From the report:

One of the reasons that recreational trails built upon abandoned railroad corridors have been so successful is the fact that they have low grades or inclines and smooth surfaces on which to ride and walk. Since making a healthy lifestyle change requires repetition, rail-trails offer exactly the terrain needed for success in walking or riding a bicycle as part of that change. In southeastern Missouri, 55 percent of trail users (who responded to the Bootheel and Ozark Heath Projects survey) are exercising more than before they had access to a trail (Health and Wellness Benefits). . . .

There are hundreds of miles of abandoned and railbanked railroad right-of-way or corridor in the State of Missouri waiting for action by interested trail organizations. Due to the nature of how railbanking works, an interested trail organization would have to know of or be actively watching for the proposed section of rail corridor to be railbanked rather than be abandoned. Therefore this document is intended to serve those organizations in the identification of corridors, which have been abandoned by railroad companies.

Comparing the map, above, of active and abandoned railroad corridors with historical Missouri railroad maps, like this one, is instructive.

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