Rock Island Trail Update: Connections for Springfield, St Louis? And more from MoRIT . . .

Greg Harris, Executive Director of the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MoRIT) just sent the latest version of the Rock Island Trail Update.

Rock Island Trail Update

January 11, 2017

Hundreds attended the dedication of the first 47 miles of the Rock Island Trail on December 10, 2016. The Pleasant Hill to Windsor segment connects greater Kansas City to the 240 mile Katy Trail. Ameren will give an additional 144 miles to the State of Missouri in late 2017 after salvage of the rails and ties is completed. Salvage status is posted at https://www.powerforwardmo.com/rockisland.

Missouri's Rock Island trail will connect with the Katy Trail in two places
Missouri's Rock Island trail will connect with the Katy Trail in two places, and consists of several segments now underway. The first segment, shown in blue on this map, is now open!

Nearly 100 of the 144 miles are alongside two-lane highways and through towns such as Stover, Versailles, Eldon, Belle and Owensville. The segment ends 35 miles from the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield. The salvaged rail corridor is relatively flat and resembles a dirt road. Improvement to the Katy Trail standard will be as public and private funding is available. The spectacular bridges over the Gasconade, Osage and Maries rivers are good candidates for naming by philanthropists or businesses interested in promoting family-friendly activities, communities, tourism, economic development, health and wellness, or conservation.

Economic development is a major motivator to the many towns created by the Rock Island Railroad that have been hurting since its decline. The Katy Trail’s annual economic impact is more than $18 million, according to https://mostateparks.com/sites/mostateparks/files/Katy_Trail_Economic_Impact_Report_Final.pdf. The Rock Island will have even greater usage and economic impact per mile. Residents in dozens of towns will use it daily for transportation and recreation. Improved quality of life will be positive for business development.  

International tourists will be attracted even more by the world-class loop. Travelers on the Katy Trail marvel at the majesty of the Missouri River and enjoy the heritage of communities like Augusta and Hermann. The next 144 miles of Rock Island Trail will add spectacular bridges and tunnels 2-5 football fields long, like the one under Freeburg. Several loops will be possible from Kansas City and St. Louis. Amtrack offers several easy one-way shuttles https://www.amtrak.com/bring-your-bicycle-onboard  . Stores and restaurants in sight from the Rock Island are open most days, not just seasonally or on weekends. Increased tourism began upon construction of the first 47 mile segment. Windsor already has out of state lodging reservations for spring and summer.

Transportation safety and efficiency will improve on highways where the adjacent trail will provide an attractive alternative for non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians. Examples include the 60 miles paralleling Highway 52 from Windsor to Eldon and the 33 miles along highways 28 and 50 from Belle to Beaufort. State Park planners want to allow horses and buggies on the trail in the Versailles area. Large numbers of Groffdale Conference Mennonites now share the two-lane Highway 52 at 5-10 mph with motorists preferring 60 mph.

Families and youth groups enjoy day trips and bicycle touring where it is safe and accessible. Kansas City area Boy Scout troops are already planning multi-day bike trips on the Rock Island and Katy trails. Four towns in the first 47 miles offer dining and camping. It is 28 miles from Pleasant Hill to Chilhowee, 8 more to Leeton, then another 11 to Windsor and the Katy. Windsor has restaurants, a motel, other lodging, and camping.

A Safe Route to School will be created by the trail at Owensville. Their schools are just east of Highway 19 and the town is mostly to the west, so students are not been allowed to walk or bicycle to school for safety reasons. That will change as the completed trail will pass under Highway 19. The trail will also provide a safe alternative to Highway 28 for students traveling to school from many miles to the east.

Rural health and childhood obesity rates improve where residents have safe places to walk and bicycle.

Rail-trails are flat, so they encourage activity even for those with weight or mobility issues.

The City of Belle is building more than a mile of trail in early 2017 to the specifications of MO State Parks. Construction was sped up a year or more after MoRIT helped the City of Belle and Ameren broker a special agreement to transfer interim responsibility for the segment to the city.  Funding is 80% from a Recreational Trails Program grant with the 20% local match being the construction by city personnel and equipment. Belle plans to renovate its former MFA as a welcome center, with wraparound decking and other inviting spaces.

Eldon has requested responsibility for 3 miles of corridor through their city limits. A donor with local ties has given Eldon $150,000 in matching money to rebuild a former railroad depot as a welcome center, museum and offices for their Chamber of Commerce. It will be at the front door of downtown Eldon near its community center. Lake Regional Health Center is developing an outpatient care facility next to the trail. A former manufacturing facility is being renovated as a senior care center. Both of those health care facilities were located to take advantage of the trail as a new community asset for transportation and exercise for their patients.

Kansas City’s Jackson County has purchased 17.7 miles of former Rock Island Railroad corridor from the Truman Sports Complex on I-70 through Raytown and Lee’s Summit. Trail will be constructed in 2017-18, with longer term goals of adding commuter rail and/or buses. Area communities are working on alternative routes for the 4-5 mile “Greenwood Gap” where there is no rail corridor available from Lee’s Summit to Pleasant Hill. See http://www.jacksongov.org/776/Rock-Island-Rail-Corridor-Authority.

In St. Louis, http://greatriversgreenway.org/and http://trailnet.org/ are eager for the Rock Island Trail to approach their regional trail network. The Katy Trail is just a few miles away at Washington, where the new Highway 47 Bridge over the Missouri River will be bike-friendly. Further east on the Katy Trail, the new Highway 64-40 Boone Bridge connecting to Chesterfield Bottoms is also bike-friendly.

Springfield wants to connect their 35 mile http://www.friscohighlinetrail.org/ending at Bolivar to the Rock Island Trail. The route will include Warsaw, connecting its trail system to the Rock Island Trail at Cole Camp. Jefferson City is discussing connections between the Katy and Rock Island Trails at Eugene or Eldon.

More than 4,100 people follow https://www.facebook.com/morockislandtrail/ and 20+ are added each week. Followers are nearly 50/50 male-female. Nearly half (49%) are ages 35-54, 18% are 55-64, 9% are 65+.

Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MoRIT) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit coalition of citizens and communities dedicated to preserving the Rock Island corridor as a linear park. See www.rockislandtrail.orgfor more information or to join MoRIT online.

Greg Harris, Executive Director
Missouri Rock Island Trail
573-202-9632 and moritdirector [at] gmail.com

If you'd like to support the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc.--or receive Greg's updates and other news periodically--please visit the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. website.

For much more information about Missouri's newest cross-state trail, visit MoBikeFed's Rock Island Trail information page.

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