Ameren ready to donate Rock Island Trail corridor once salvage concludes later this year--will MO State Parks accept it? | Gasconade County Republican

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Ameren Missouri Vice President Warren Wood told Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc., (MORIT) members attending the third annual director’s meeting March 20 the utility provider will be ready to donate 144 miles of the former Rock Island line in May –– hopefully to Missouri State Parks.

“Communication is key to realizing success of this world-class opportunity,” Wood told MORIT supporters meeting in Jefferson City.

Wood noted the clearing, inspections, and salvage operations of the 144 miles that are left of the Rock Island corridor will be done by May.

MORIT Executive Director Greg Harris said there needs to be a recipient lined up for the impending donation in May. Missouri State Parks has not formally accepted responsibility for the trail.

“I was talking to my boss wondering what to do with the Rock Island corridor, and we had these MORIT people calling us,” said Wood. “We thought there’s an enormous number of us that ride the Katy Trail, including me. We look at the economic development, the tourism, the outdoor recreation opportunity that represents.”

Wood reiterated Ameren wants the corridor used for a trail.

“It wouldn’t be that hard to make it a loop,” Wood said. “We saw it as a world class destination, potentially. So we asked MORIT, ‘what kind of support do you have?’ And they dropped off five boxes of letters — big boxes, of the type legal briefs are delivered in — from Missouri, neighboring states, and other countries.”

Wood, who has been involved in community meetings across the region over the past three years, explained how Ameren officials came to the conclusion to donate the corridor to help establish a trail.

“That really helped us since Ameren didn’t have to come up with the whole process for supporting this, communicating to the state what an opportunity this is,” he said. “There’s already a ready-set group here.”

For the first time in Gov. Eric Grietens’ administration, a ranking director of Missouri State Parks attended a MORIT meeting. Deputy Director Mike Sutherland stressed nothing would happen with the trail without a plan in place.

“The question is — how does (the Rock Island Trail) fit into our system?” Sutherland asked. “It has to fit within the confines of the funding. What we’re doing now is an evaluation process that hasn’t been done before. No one can deny we have a significant opportunity.”

Sutherland went on to ask if the state had the ability to accept the trail.

“Can we do it to the standard everyone will expect because of the success of the Katy Trail?” Sutherland asked. “We are measuring these capacities.”