ADVOCACY ALERT: Bill to allow ATVs on the Katy Trail moving forward in the Missouri House; contact your representative today

UPDATE 12 APRIL 2016: Sign the petition opposing ATVs on the Katy Trail - we'll present it to the Missouri House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem.

UPDATE 7 APRIL 2016: Today the ATVS on the Katy Trail bill PASSED its second committee vote in the House.  Next major legislative step is a vote in the full House.

Even if you previously wrote your legislators about this bill, PLEASE WRITE AGAIN NOW AS OUTLINED BELOW--your Representative needs to know that this bill is headed for the House Floor so that they can start to organize opposition. 

Your Senator needs to know there is a real chance the bill will pass the House & appear in the Senate now.

The article below has been extensively edited from its original publication and now contains updated information about HB 2047 contents, amendments, and progress through the legislative process as of 7 APRIL 2016.

A bill to allow ATVs and golf carts on the Katy Trail on certain days of the month has been proposed by Rep. Jay Houghton of Martinsburg.  (Houghton is the same representative who has proposed requiring bicyclists to use a 15-foot tall flag.) The bill is HB 2047.

Do we want ATVs on Missouri's Katy Trail?
Do we want ATVs on Missouri's Katy Trail?

The bill had a hearing in committee Monday.  The Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation was the only organization represented at the hearing in opposition to the bill.  Several organizations and individuals testified in support of the bill at the hearing.  The committee is likely to vote the bill out of committee next Monday, February 15th.

It is time for Katy Trail supporters to speak up.  Allowing motor vehicles, like ATVs and golf carts, on the trail is a very bad idea.

What you can do: Contact your Missouri State Representative

Here is what you can do:

  • Sign the petition opposing ATVs on the Katy Trail - we'll present it to the Missouri House Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem on Wednesday, April 20th.
     
  • Contact your own representative and senator in the Missouri House of Representatives (look up here using your street address or here using your zip code). 
     
  • If you live out of state, your message that you will be less likely to visit the Katy Trail because of this bill is a very important one. If you have some connection with Missouri (work in MO, grew up in MO) just look up the rep & senator for that area and contact them.  Otherwise please contact House Speaker Todd Richardson (573-751-4039, Todd.Richardson@house.mo.gov) and Senator Brian Munzlinger, Chair of the Agriculture & Outdoor Resources Committee ((573) 751-7985, email here)
     
  • On any email message, please CC: director@mobikefed.org - so that we know your representative has been contacted
     
  • A phone call is best - email next best - letter or fax also good
     
  • PLEASE be polite and persuasive when you write or call
     
  • Sample email message (PLEASE personalize and address it to your own representative--"Dear Representative Smith," for example):

Subject: I oppose HB 2047 - Please don't allow motorized vehicles on the Katy Trail

Do we want ATVs on Missouri's Katy Trail?
Do we want ATVs on Missouri's Katy Trail?

Dear __________,

I am writing today to ask you to oppose HB 2047, which would allow motorized vehicles on the Katy Trail.

[Briefly tell why the Katy Trail is important to you and why you oppose allowing ATVs and golf carts on the trail--see some reasons below.  A personal message is best.]

[Explain that you live in the Representative's or Senator's District, tell where you live or any connection you have with the Representative or Senator.]

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Your Name

Your contact information

The bill is currently on the House side only, so ask Senators to be on the alert for the bill and to oppose it if/when passed by the House.

Why are motorized vehicles on the Katy Trail a bad idea?

  • The Katy Trail is a Missouri treasure.  The appeal of the trail is based on the fact that it is away from motorized traffic, away from noise, and safe. Don't ruin our outdoor recreation treasure!
     
  • People visit the Katy from all over Missouri, from all 50 states, and from many foreign countries every year because it is a unique natural attraction. Allowing motor vehicles--with their noise, smell, and wide footprint on the trail, will make the trail less attractive to visitors.
     
  • The Katy Trail brings $18 million in economic development to trail communities annually.  That economic impact is based on the fact that the trail is quiet, safe, natural, and motor-vehicle free.  Allowing ATVs on the trail will endanger that economic impact.
     
  • The proposed changes to the Katy Trail are expensive and the bill provides no way to pay for them. According to the bill's fiscal note, regularly allowing numerous utility vehicles and golf carts on the trail will require additional staffing, equipment, and maintenance to repair trail erosion annually--at over $200,000 per year--plus one-time replacement of signs and gates at $100,000.  In addition, at 8-10 feet in width, the trail is not wide enough to allow to golf carts/utility vehicles to pass. Widening the 240 miles of trail is estimated at over $40 million.  And that doesn't include funds for widening the trails numerous (and expensive) bridges.
     
  • The Katy Trail is designed for nonmotorized traffic.  Motorized traffic will tear up the trail, require expensive maintenance and/or re-construction, and reduce the quality of the trail experience for the hundreds of thousands of current visitors to the trail.
     
  • The trail was not designed for, and is not wide enough to safely allow for ATV, "utility vehicle", or golf cart use alongside current nonmotorized used.  The trail was designed to be wide enough to allow to bicyclists to pass each other in opposite directions--not two ATVs, or two "utility vehicles", or two golf carts, plus bicyclists, plus pedestrians.
     
  • The bill allows "utility vehicles" up to 60 inches (5 feet wide).  The trail is only 8-10 feet wide.  That means that two "utility vehicles" cannot pass each other on the trail without driving off the side of the trail.  This will destroy the trail base , trample vegetation, cause erosion, and cause other problems. Many bridges are less than 8-10 feet wide and the vehicles will be unable to pass each other.
     
  • ATVS and "utility vehicles" pollute, are noisy, will tear up the trail, and--based on experience in existing ATV recreational areas--will be prone to leaving the trail and tearing up adjacent areas and/or illegally accessing neighboring properties from the trail.
     
  • One area of agreement with the bill sponsor, is we want--and everyone wants--the Katy Trail to be accessible to everyone, regardless of whether they walk or bicycle.  But the trail is already accessible to people with disabilities. This is required by state and federal law.  In addition, Missouri State Parks already offers regular tram rides on the Katy Trail for anyone who (for whatever reason) wants to experience the trail without bicycling or walking.  These accommodations open up access without destroying the natural beauty of the trail or scaring/intimidating other trail users.
     
  • So the only actual effect of the bill, will be to allow anyone 60 years of age or older to ride ATVs and golf carts on the Katy Trail on certain days of the month without restriction.  There is no special reason why people 60 or older cannot walk or bicycle to enjoy the trail--and in fact, that age group forms a large portion of existing trail users. User who are actually disabled can use the existing ADA accommodations to enjoy the trail; others can and should walk or bicycle--that is the whole point of the trail!
     
  • People seek out trails like the Katy precisely because they don't want to mix with motor vehicles. Allowing motorized use of the trail destroys this primary use and purpose of the trail.
     
  • Most current trail users travel at far less than the proposed 15 MPH Katy Trail speed limit for ATVs/"utility vehiclels" and golf carts.  Adding large, heavy, faster-moving vehicles to the mix is not safe or comfortable for existing Katy Trail users.
     
  • Neighboring property owners already filed suit and received payment when the use of the corridor changed from rail to nonmotorized trail.  A further change in the corridor to allow regular motorized use will not be welcomed by all property owners; they can and will sue again for compensation for this new, intrusive, and previously uncontemplated use of the corridor.  In addition, many neighboring landowners will simply not like ATVs on the trail--unfortunately ATV users have a reputation for using access corridors like this to trespass on adjacent properties, where they cause erosion, pollution, noise, and other problems.

What the bill does - the details

  • The bill allows "utility vehicles" of up to 700cc engine size (ie, motorized vehicles like ATVs in nearly every way, but called "utility vehicles" in the bill because of the backlash against "ATV use on the Katy Trail") and golf carts to be driven on the Katy Trail on every Wednesday.
     
  • Only individuals who are disabled or who are 60 years of age or older are allowed to drive ATVs and golf carts on the trail.
     
  • ATV/golf cart speed limit is set at 15 MPH.

Note that the bill was amended before passing out of the initial House Committee.  The original version of the bill allowed ATVs to use the trail rather than (the similar in every way except name) "utility vehicles", specified use on just two Wednesdays per month, and set the age limit at 55 rather than 60 years old.

Compare the original bill text and amendment to see how the final version as passed by the House Committee will read.

Note that bill text may be changed via amendment as the session proceeds. Follow HB 2047 progress throughout the session here.

Potential solutions

This bill brings up several good issues that can and should be explored--but then it addresses them in a counterproductive way.

What are some productive solutions to these issues?

  • Missouri State Parks can revisit, revise, and even expand its disabilities access policy for the Katy Trail.  A good policy is already in place, but maybe it can be even better.
     
  • Missouri State Parks could expand its tram ride program to allow greater access to the Katy Trail.
     
  • State Parks could work with private enterprise to ensure that tricycles, quadracycles, tandem bicycles, and other disability-friendly bicycle options are available for low-cost rental at several Katy Trail locations to expand access to the trail.
     
  • State Parks could work to allow low-power assist bicycles, tricycles, and quadracycles (including low-cost rentals available through private enterpreueners) on the trail.  These create the same access to the trail the bill is aiming to created, but in a way that mixes naturally and safely with existing trail users. These options could allow greater access to the trail without the noise, pollution, erosion, speed differential, and other problems related to ATV and golf cart use.
     
  • Representatives on the committee and from various parts of the state can work with Missouri State Parks to ensure that ATV areas are available in various parts of the state for those of all ages and ability levels who want to enjoy ATV riding.  ATVs and nonmotorized trails are both valuable, both important, and both have large constituencies.  The two uses do not mix well on a single trail, however--particularly one that is currently designated and designed for non-motorized use only.

What is next--what is the process?

The bill was heard in the Missouri House Conservation and Natural Resources Committee on Monday, February 8th, 2016.  After some delays and an amendment, this Committee passed the bill by an 8-3 vote on March 15th, 2016.

Bicycle, pedestrian, and trail supporters have a voice in Jefferson City
Bicycle, pedestrian, and trail supporters have a voice in Jefferson City thanks to the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation and our many allies around the state

Next stop for the bill will was the House Select Committee on Agriculture.  April 7th it passed this committee with only three dissenting votes.

Next stop will be a vote of the full Missouri House.

Then the bill will go to the Missouri Senate, where it will again have a Committee hearing and vote before proceeding to a vote of the full Senate.

Last, the bill must be signed by the governor.  Or if the governor vetoes, the veto must be overridden by a 2/3 vote of both Chambers.  At that point, the bill becomes law.

So we still have several opportunities to stop this ill-conceived bill before it becomes law.  But it will be best if we can stop it early on.

Thank you - your voice really does count!

Please do take time to contact your Missouri legislators.  When you call and write, your legislators listen!

If you don't take the time to contact your legislator, they will be moving forward based on incomplete and inaccurate information provided by opponents of the Katy Trail.  And we don't want that!

Please join, renew, or make a special donation

Please take a moment to renew, join, or make a special donation in support of our legislative work to protect Missouri bicyclists, pedestrians, and trails.

Your generous support makes our legislative work in support of Missouri trails possible.

 

 

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