Katy Trail Falls Short of Serving Most Missourians

Greg Walters, an alderman from City of Raytown, wrote the following editorial in support of a "Complete Katy Trail" stretching from St. Louis to Kansas City:
The metropolitan area came closer to the trans-Missouri biking and walking trail known as the Katy Trail earlier this week. The announcement of the construction of a new section of the trail linking it to Pleasant Hill as a trail head is good news for hikers, walkers and bicyclists.

As good as the news is, there is room for improvement. The State of Missouri, through the Department of Natural Resources, has led the effort to create the trail across Missouri. The plan has been successful; still, it does have faults. For instance, the Katy Trail does parallel some scenic along bluffs near the Missouri River. But the vast majority of it runs along abandoned rail lines that are endlessly straight and flat through farmland. Not really a bicyclist's vision of a fun ride.

Getting back to nature is a good thing. But the Katy Trail has been constructed in rural Missouri as opposed to where people live. This means that to enjoy it the vast majority of Missourians must throw their $300 bicycle on the back of a $30,000 motor vehicle to get to the trail head. Hardly a great leap forward for a city dweller who owns a bike but not a car. As one critic recently opined, "the Katy Trail is great - but it serves more cows than it does people."

Urban trails serve more people than rural trails. Abandoned railways are perfect for such trails. Most of the metropolitan Kansas City area is naturally scenic - with rolling hills, winding creeks and rivers. When the rail lines were built they often followed the natural terrain of the land to avoid cutting through hills and other obstacles. Most of the property owned by the railways has been left as a naturalist's paradise - untouched by urban development.

If owners of abandoned rail lines are reluctant to sell rail line property then area municipalities should enter into agreements to lease right of way along side the lines. Much of the rail line right of way is a minimum 50' wide - ample room to build a safe trail. This has been a very practice in Colorado where mountainous terrain has forced bicycle and walking trails to run parallel to active rail lines.

If it works there - it can work here. Area municipalities and the Mid-America Regional Council should work towards a goal of more trails - where the people live - in our metropolitan area communities.