Rock Island Trail: What is the value of rail trails to trail neighbors and communities?

Work to railbank the new cross-state Rock Island Trail is moving forward quickly--and raising much support, but also natural questions and concerns by trail neighbors.  It is a good time to consider:  What is the value of these trails to the state and to the communities they pass through?

Rock Island neighbors know that the trail may bring inconveniences. But is it good for the community and the state as a whole?

Missourians look out for each other and for their communities. The trail may be inconvenient for me personally.  I may not plan to use it, personally.  But if I can see the value to my community and my state, I may be willing to accept and deal with that burden for the greater good, because I want what is best for my neighbors, my community, and my state.See note

All of us want to see the benefit to the community and our neighbors.  But it's also worth looking at the direct effect of the trail on your own family, your own property, your own business.  Are your own property values likely to go up or go down once the trail is in place?

Do trails increase the property values of nearby properties?  Careful research says "Yes"

Numerous reports and studies have carefully documented the wide-ranging positive impacts of trails--from health to community livability to the local economy. Missouri has a very similar trail, the Katy, and a recent economic impact study for the Katy provides the closest possible analog to what the Rock Island Trail might look like 20 years after it is completed.

That is all well and good. But what about taking it to a more basic level--do trails affect the value of your home or property when it comes time to sell it? Again, numerous studies have carefully examined the effect of trails on property values. For example, one study found:

[H]omes near these rail trails sold at 99.3% of the list price as compared to 98.1% of the list price for other homes sold in these towns. The most significant feature of home sales near rail trails is that these homes sold in an average of 29.3 days as compared to 50.4 days for other homes. These results are similar to those for other rail trails showing that homes near rail trails have become desirable.

So let's bring it home to Missouri.  We're the Show Me State.  Not everything that applies to other states applies here in Missouri.  We want to know that it will work here and we want to see evidence.

What do our own residents, real estate agents, and real estate market say about selling a property near a rail trail?

What Missouri property owners and real estate agents say

Last week we looked at realtors selling properties in rural areas and small towns near the Katy Trail and found that proximity to the trail was an important selling point. 

This week, let's look at a slightly different situation--Grant's Trail, an eight mile rail-trail conversion that runs through neighborhoods in St. Louis County.

Is the trail seen as a positive by owners and realtors? 

Here is a sample of statement from actual, active real estate listings from the area: 

  • Kirchner Ave:  The owner writes, "What I love about the home: Dead end street, quiet neighborhood, location central to highways, Grants trail, Jefferson Barracks park, Lemay park, and Carondelet park. Grocery store is in walking distance."
  • Windberry Court: Fabulous end unit in a secure building with stunning views of Grant's Trail from most every room. Just steps away from biking, jogging, walking and the public library. (The listing features the large photo, below, of a Grant's Trail marker near the property.)
  • Kay Lane: Conveniently located close to highways, shopping, restaurants, and parks. A short distance from Grant's Trail, an 8 mile long bike trail perfect for biking, running, inline skating, or walking.
    Featured real estate listing photo--Grant's Trail marker and trailhead near the
    Featured real estate listing photo--Grant's Trail marker and trailhead near the property

  • Tesson Ferry Rd: Great backyard and side yard. Conveniently located by Grant's Trail, and Grant's Farm.
  • Pardee Lane: Prime Crestwood location is within walking distance to Grant's Trail, Whitecliff Park and Grant's Farm. All in the sought-after Lindbergh school district.
  • General Grant Lane: GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD... Walk to Grant's Farm, Grant's Hiking/Biking Trail, Whitecliff Park & Pool!
  • Senator Ct: Easy access to highways, Grant's Trail, and Clydesdale Park. Walking distance to public and private grade schools.
  • Leeshores Lane: The location couldn't be more convenient w/quick access to I-55, Downtown St. Louis & steps from the trail head at Grant's Trail.
  • Rosegarden Drive: Who Wouldn't Want to Live at the Corner of Rainbow and Rosegarden? Conveniently located near Grants Trail and Jefferson Barracks Park.
  • Trelane Ave: Pleasant rear deck and level fenced yard for the kids to play and for the BBQ. Located just a few blocks from Grants Trail the biking and jogging Mecca of south county.
  • Royal Arms Court: Welcome to this wonderful townhouse in a desirable location just steps from Grants Trail, w/some of your closest neighbors being the Clydesdales at Grants farm.
  • Colonel Dent Drive: Location, Location, Location!! This well-maintained home is located on a quiet cul-de-sac in a wonderful neighborhood near Grant's Trail.

In last week's article, we found that the Katy Trail is an important part of what makes communities like Rocheport, Hermann, Sedalia, and Defiance thriving, growing, attractive communities with a strong tourism component to their local economies.

Similarly, the excerpts from the real estate ads above show that St Louis County neighborhoods find that Grant's Trail adds value to their community and neighborhoods. 

A trail like Grant's Trail becomes one of the most notable and attractive features of your community--and if that is true of the 8-mile Grant's Trail, it will be even more so when 217 miles of the Rock Island Trail joins 240 miles of Katy Trail to become one of the largest interlocking rail-trail systems in the U.S.

More information about the Rock Island Trail

More info about the proposed Rock Island Trail: 

Important note

Author's Note: My own family lives less than 100 yards from the Rock Island line and because of that, we have been actively involved in issues related to the line and potential uses over the past 22 years. So the thoughts in the paragraphs above are a fair representation of the actual thoughts and discussions our family has held about the line as various plans and project ideas moved forward over the past two decades.

We have indeed considered the potential negative impacts--of both a potential trail and the potential reactivation of the line to carry freight trains and other traffic.

What is the potential benefit of any plan to the community, and what are the potential benefits and drawbacks to our family and to our home?  Are we willing to support plans for various uses of the corridor because they may benefit the community as a whole, even though they may create significant problems, inconveniences, and annoyances for our family and our home?

Those are questions we have seriously considered over the years as different plans and proposals have been presented.  We hope that all Rock Island families and businesses are having similar discussions now, and fairly and carefully weighing the information and the consequences both for themselves and their communities.

Because this is a serious issue and one the merits serious consideration; great projects with benefits to many often do require some sacrifice--and often the burden falls disporportionately on certain families and businesses.

If you are one of those who for whom the Rock Island trail will cause real problems and difficulties, are you willing to consider accepting those because of the greater benefit to the Rock Island communities, region, and state?

Are you willing to work in good faith with Missouri State Parks to minimize any problems and difficulties as far as possible?

Does it help to know that fair compensation for your land may be available through the court system, for those who want to pursue that compensation?

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