Missouri Chamber of Commerce writes about economic impact of Rock Island Trail

In a remarkable editorial by Dan Mehan, President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, published in Missouri Business Magazine this month, the Missouri Chamber gives a strong endorsement of the importance of outdoor recreation to Missouri's economy--emphasizing the impact of the recently opened 47-mile segment of the Rock Island Trail on Missouri's rural communities:

Dan Mehan, President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce
Dan Mehan, President and CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce

I love the outdoors. I realize this perspective is far from unique. Outdoor recreation is an $887 billion industry in our country, supporting 7.6 million jobs, according to the latest data from the national Outdoor Industry Association.

Missourians are blessed with incredible natural resources that enable us to experience the outdoors in many ways. Hunting and fishing are a big part of our state’s culture, as are canoeing, powerboating, bicycling and hiking.

Our outdoor resources are important tourism drivers. The most recent annual report from the Missouri Division of Tourism shows that 13 percent of the visitors to our state came to see our state parks. . . . .

[In this issue] we visit businesses in Chilhowee and Windsor to learn about the economic impact being felt along a new bike and equestrian path there. Economic growth along the trail has many small communities hoping for a possible trail expansion. Read more here.

We’ve had a hot summer in Missouri. I don’t blame you if you’ve spent much of that indoors. But as the weather cools this fall, I hope you get outside. As you do, you’ll be supporting a huge, important industry in Missouri.

Keep in mind that bicycling and trail sports are fully 1/4 of that $887 billion/7.6 million job outdoor recreation industry in the U.S.--and Missouri's share of the bicycle & trails portion of the outdoor recreation industry is about $2.8 billion annually.

Yes, I'll say it again: Bicycling, walking, and trails are a $2.8 billion industry in Missouri.

The economic impact of the first 47 miles of the Rock Island Trail on rural Missouri communities

In the major article about the economic impact of the newly opened 47 miles of the Rock Island Trail, between Pleasant Hill and Windsor in western Missouri, the Chamber doesn't pull any punches about the importance of this kind of economic development to small communities in Missouri:

It’s a Thursday in early June, and Kim’s Cabins in Windsor are completely booked.

A group of out-of-state bicyclists is staying here, filling all three of the cabins. Owner Kim Henderson is thrilled.

“It’s a little overwhelming how much traffic we’re seeing,” she said.

A year ago, Henderson didn’t have space for a group this size. She had just one cabin. Anticipating a boost in business from the opening of a new bike trail through her town, she decided to hire a local Amish carpenter to build two additional cabins.

She opened her expansion on Memorial Day and hasn’t looked back.

“Folks are coming from all over,” she said. “It’s exciting. Trail riders have become the backbone of my business.”

In December, Windsor became the easternmost point of a new 47.5-mile biking, walking and equestrian trail, officially dubbed the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park. Windsor is located at the junction of the new Rock Island trail and the Katy Trail.

 Missouri Business Magazine's summary of what Rock Island communities are saying 

The Chilhowee General Store

April Siegfried of the Chilhowee General Store sums it up:

As the trail enters the city limits in Chilhowee, there’s a sign advertising the Chilhowee Corner Store, which opened in March.

Owner April Siegfried said trail business is “huge” on the weekends. Rock Island riders often stop in to buy deli sandwiches, snacks and drinks. She started carrying fresh fruit at their request.

April Siegfried, owner of the Chilhowee General Store on the Rock Island Trail
April Siegfried, owner of the Chilhowee General Store on the Rock Island Trail

Siegfried said her town is doing what it can to welcome visitors. Camping at the local city park is free. There’s also a horse stable and water access for equestrian riders.

People here believe the trail is going to be important to Chilhowee’s future.

“We are so small, and we’re not on any major highway,” Siegfried said. “It’s going to be essential for us.”

Remember to complete the State Parks' Rock Island Trail Survey by August 31st, and remind your friends and family to do the same

Remember to complete Missouri State Parks Survey about the future of the Rock Island Trail before the survey closes at the end of August.

If you have completed the survey, please make sure every member of your household has also completed it, and share it with family and friends.  It is that important.

That message: "Please accept the next 144 miles of the Rock Island Trail as a Missouri State Park.  It is very important to Missouri and to the future of the towns along the trail."


Supporting a world-class bicycle, pedestrian, and trails network across Missouri is one of four major goals of our Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Supporting major statewide trails initiatives like the Rock Island Trail is one of the most important things we do to help reach that goal.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support helps turn our Vision into reality.  Thank you!