Groups Calling on State to Preserve Rock Island Trail Corridor after one option in public meetings was to break it up - Public Comment deadline Nov 30th | emissourian.com

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Hundreds from across Missouri attended public meetings hosted last week by Missouri State Parks to help determine the fate of the 144-mile Rock Island Railroad corridor between Windsor and Beaufort.

Public feedback at the meetings was overwhelmingly positive, mirroring the sentiment of the nearly 9,000 comments — nearly unanimous in their support for the project — that were previously submitted to the state in the summer of 2017.

“We appreciate the work that State Parks has done to gather the necessary information to make a decision about the Rock Island corridor, including this last week listening to hundreds of people talk about the importance of preserving this incredible asset,” said Brent Hugh, Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation executive director.

“Now, it’s time to use that information to inform a creative, flexible approach to funding and developing the corridor,” he said. “As the February 2019 Surface Transportation Board deadline for the transfer agreement approaches, Missouri State Parks must listen to its citizens and follow through with accepting the corridor.”

Last week’s meetings underscore the need to be creative and flexible to secure new economic opportunities for the small towns along its route, an epic outdoor recreation asset for all of Missouri to celebrate and enjoy, and a world-class destination trail, officials said.

“Missouri is incredibly lucky; corridors of this type are few and far between. It is critical that the state takes the first step and railbanks the corridor. We can build it over time, in partnership and in a way that mitigates financial risk to the state,” said Keith Laughlin, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) president.

“The communities along the route want this trail. Missourians across the state want this trail. Bicyclists and tourists from across the country want this trail,” he said. “What’s in question is the state’s willingness to make the decision that’s in the best interest of its residents, protecting its legacy as a rail-trail leader.”

MoBikeFed comment: Remember that State Parks is asking for public comments about this future of this vital cross-state trail corridor, with a deadline of November 30th, 2018.

Leave your comments here:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RILC_InfoMtgs_Fall2018

Suggested points to make in your comments to State Parks:

* You strongly support the trail and feel State Parks is the best organization to take over and manage the entire corridor for the long term.

* It is imperative that, above all, the entire corridor be preserved intact for the future.

* State Parks should accept and manage it--but should look primarily to outside funding and resources to develop the trail. No one is expecting State Parks to lead the way in covering the expense of trail building, when their budget is already stretched to the limit.

* Given State Parks' budget pressures, State Parks need to be looking at: What is the MINIMUM investment needed from State Parks in order to preserve the corridor now.

State Parks can provide that level of investment; a combination of local, private, and grant funds can fill in the rest over time.

* The trail doesn't need to be built to "Cadillac" levels. It is OK to begin with a basic level of service for the trail and work for higher, more expensive levels if and when funding becomes available.

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