MoBikeFed requests to file friend of court brief in Boonville Bridge case

With the help of Great Rivers Environmental Law, the Missouri Bicycle Federation, Inc., has asked to file a "friend of the court" brief in the ongoing legal dispute about the Boonville MKT Bridge.

Others who have asked to file briefs as friends of the court alongside the Missouri Bicycle Federation include Randy Niere, Dr. Everett M. Murphy and Corva Murphy.

Pat Jones, who along with her husband Ted Jones donated the money that originally created the Katy Trail, has also (separately) asked to file a friend of the court brief. We understand that the mayor of Rocheport, Brett Dufur, will also ask to file a friend of the court brief.

The Boonville Bridge is part of the MKT railroad corridor, most of which is now "railbanked" and used as the Katy Trail.

Because of technical considerations during the negotiations about using the railroad corridor for the Katy Trail, the railroad retained ownership of the Boonville Bridge, giving the state of Missouri two specific rights in the bridge:
  • to use the bridget as part of the Katy Trail, if the state so desired in the future and met certain conditions
  • to have the railroad maintain the bridge as "available for transportation purposes"
The second point is an important one--if the bridge is removed from the railroad corridor 'for transportation purposes" then the corridor may be disconnected at that point. This creates a serious problem, because in order to retain its legal status as a "railbanked" rail corridor, every point of the Katy corridor must remain directly connected to the active rail system. The Katy Trail is connected to the active rail system at only a few points, so dividing the corridor creates the possibility that large sections of the rail corridor will, now or in the future, be separated from the active railroad network.

A full discussion and explanation of the threat to the integrity of the Katy Trail is here.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation is not entering the lawsuit as an advocate for either side--neither for the Department of Natural Resources, which wants to give back its rights to the bridge nor for the Missouri Attorney General Jax Nixon, who is trying to prevent this.

Rather, our interest is in representing the rights and interests of Missouri citizens who use and support the trail--citizens whose rights and interests are too easily overlooked in a politicized legal proceeding.

Our analysis shows that simply giving away the state's rights in the Boonville Bridge, as the Missouri DNR wishes to do, will indeed enganger the entire Katy Trail. It may not immediately lead to dissolution of the trail, but the action will clearly remove a margin of safety in the trail's legal status.

And giving away the state's rights in the bridge clearly opens up avenues of attack on the trail's legal status. These chinks in the trail's legal protection will certainly lead to attacks by the trail's opponents--who have already shown themselves willing to fight years of legal battles.

These legal attacks on the Katy Trail may or may not be successful--but that's just the point. No one knows whether or not they will be successful. The attacks have a chance of success.

The state should not be gambling with the future of the Katy Trail. That is our position.

There may be legal steps the state could take to allow the bridge to be physically removed while allowing the trail corridor over the river at the point to be retained as a legal entity.

However the state of Missouri has taken no such steps and does not seem willing to consider them.

The Missouri Bicycle Federation urges the state of Missouri to take all steps necessary and prudent to preserve and protect the Katy Trail for future generations.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center has also filed a separate, private lawsuit on behalf of several individuals regarding the Boonville Bridge. The Missouri Bicycle Federation is not directly involved in this private lawsuit.

Further resources about the Boonville Bridge lawsuit: