A great day for Missouri: SB 196 Creating Rock Island State Park Endowment Fund, and giving legislative support to Rock Island Trail State Park, passes both House and Senate

Huge congratulations is in order to our friends at the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc, as SB 196, creating the Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund, has finally passed both the Missouri House and Senate.

The bill is "Truly Agreed To and Finally Passed"--meaning that the Missouri General Assembly is finished and done with it, and next stop is Governor Parson's desk.

Governor Parson and Missouri State Parks have pretty clearly indicated their support for the Rock Island as a major rural infrastructure and economic development project, so we expect Governor Parson to sign the bill.

However--it wouldn't do any harm to contact Governor Parson thank him and Missouri State Parks for their support of the Rock Island Trail, the Endowment Fund created by SB 196, and trails across the state like the Katy Trail (Gov Parson recently spoke glowingly in support of the project to complete 3 miles of the Katy Trail in Sedalia), and ask him to sign SB 196.

Moving the Rock Island Trail forward has been a major unified effort by many leaders, organizations, agencies, and individuals

Thanks goes to many for getting the Rock Island Trail project to this point:

  • To the leadership and staff at Missouri State Parks, who have spent a considerable amount of time studying the corridor in detail, identifying problems, finding solutions, and working with legislators to develop support
     
  • To Senator Mike Bernskoetter of Jefferson City and Rep. David Wood of Versailles, who sponsored the original legislation in both House and Senate
     
  • Other Senators and Representatives who played a key role in moving the bill forward this year, like Rep. Peggy McGaugh of Carollton, who handled SB 196 in the House, and Rep. Sonya Anderson of Springfield, who allowed the Rock Island Trail State Park to be amended onto HB 1206.
     
  • To many other Senators and Representatives along the corridor who voiced support and helped create a unified voice in support
     
  • To Missouri Senate and House leadership, who supported a positive and unified solution
     
  • To Ameren who has worked tireless to give an extraordinarly valuable gift to the people of Missouri
     
  • To the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy who has gone to extraordinary lengths to provide support for this nationally important project
     
  • To many bicycle, pedestrian, trails, parks, outdoors, community, economic development, and other organizations across Missouri who have worked tirelessly8 together to support the Rock Island Trail

    Representatives of MoBikeFed and MoRIT meet with Ameren to deliver petition signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy played a key role in promoting the trail, helping build nationwide support, and in submitting a competitive bid to purchase the corridor.
    Representatives of MoBikeFed and MoRIT meet with Ameren in 2014 to deliver petition signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy played a key role in promoting the trail, helping build nationwide support, and in submitting a competitive bid to purchase the corridor.
    To the many communities and citizens up and down the Rock Island corridor, organized and working together through MoRIT, who have taken a very long and winding trail to finally reach this moment
     
  • To many, many individual citizens who have spoken up for the Rock Island Trail over many, many years

Update: Overwhelming majorities in both chambers support Rock Island

In both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly, support for the Rock Island Trail State Park was overwhelming:

That's about a large a majority as you get on any bill on any topic.

Update: Statutory language improved thanks to sponsors

One of the small behind-the-scenes issue Rock Island Trail advocates had been working on all session, was to get the statutory language in the bill exactly right.

The first versions of the bill said funds in the Rock Island Trail State Park Endownment Fund could be used "for the purpose of operating, maintaining, and securing any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor".

We wanted to be sure--and perfectly clear that--the funds could also be collected and used for building and developing the trail.

Because from our perspective, that is the most important thing that needs to be done!

All the legislative sponsors, staff, and State Parks staff agreed with this. But once a bill has started to make its way through hearings and votes, it can be hard to make those little language tweaks.

After the first hearing, an amendment introduced the key word "development".

But reading the bill carefully after another hearing, we realized there are actually two places in the bill where the change needs to be made--and only one had been changed.

Greg Harris of the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. talked to House and Senate staff, reminded legislators about the issues in hearings, and did all the other needed follow up.

And finally on May 6th, Rep. Wood introduced a House Floor Amendment to add the missing word.  The amendment passed and when the Senate passed the bill May 9th, all the details were fixed.

Thanks to all involved for a job well done!

Contact Senators and Representatives to say thanks!

When we have been asking for legislators to support something--long and loud!--one of the most important things we can do once they have passed legislation supporting our work, is to say a hearty thank you.

Here are legislators you can contact to say Thank You:

  • Senator Mike Bernskoetter of Jefferson City - sponsor of Senate bill, has largest piece of Rock Island Trail in his district - Mike.Bernskoetter@senate.mo.gov
     
  • Rep. David Wood of Versailles - sponsor of House bill and has a long stretch of the Rock Island Trail in his district - David.Wood@house.mo.gov
     
  • Rep. Peggy McGaugh of Carollton - handled SB 196 in the House. This is similar to being a bill sponsor, and means she was working hard to support the bill, and move it through committees and to the floor in a timely fashion - Peggy.McGaugh@house.mo.gov
     
  • Rep. Sonya Anderson of Springfield - allowed the Rock Island Trail State Park language to be amended onto her bill, HB 1206, and then worked hard for passage of the Rock Island Trail State Park language - Sonya.Anderson@house.mo.gov
     
  • Your own Missouri Senator and Representative - nearly every Senator and Representative voted for SB 196, so this is a great chance to say thanks! Look up Missouri State Senators and Representatives by address here.

What it means: An important step for the Rock Island Trail, but not by any means the final step

Missouri State Park and Ameren continue to negotiate over the future of the 144-mile Rock Island corridor between Windsor and Beaufort. The next deadline is August 2019.

So the negotiations are not year over.   But passage of this bill by both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly is an important signal--that legislators will support a deal for State Parks to receive the corridor.

Furthermore, the creation of the Endownment Fund seems to set up a paradigm where State Parks will set a very ambitious fundraising goal that will allow them to keep the corridor in perpetuity, and then to work, gradually, to develop it over time.

Even if State Parks accepts the corridor and begins fundraising, but does not complete it successfully--this could create a situation where State Parks will not be able to continue to hold or maintain the corridor into the future.

So yesterday was an important step--but not the final step.

We still have work to do.

Nevertheless: Passing of SB 196 was a big step--and a great day for Missouri!

Full text of SB 196, creating the Rock Island Trail State Park Endownment Fund

253.177. 1. There is hereby created in the state treasury the "Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund". The fund shall be administered by the department of natural resources. Any grant, gift, donation, devise, or bequest of moneys, funds, real or personal property, or other assets to the department of natural resources for the operation, maintenance, development, or security of any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor located east of milepost 215.325 shall be deposited with the state treasurer to the credit of the fund. All income, interest, rights, or rent earned through the operation of the fund shall also be credited to the fund.

2. The Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund shall be used by the department of natural resources for the purpose of operating, maintaining, developing, and securing any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor located east of milepost 215.325 that is owned, leased, or operated by the department of natural resources and for no other purpose. Any funds previously deposited into the state park earnings fund created in section 253.090 for such purpose are hereby transferred into the Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund.

3. The state treasurer shall be the custodian of all moneys, bonds, securities, interests, and rights therein deposited in the state treasury to the credit of the Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund and shall invest the moneys in the fund in a manner as provided by law.

4. Funds from the Rock Island Trail State Park endowment fund shall be expended, refunded, or transferred only upon appropriation by the general assembly. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 33.080 to the contrary, any moneys remaining in the fund at the end of the biennium shall not revert to the credit of the general revenue fund.

5. If the United States Surface Transportation Board vacates the Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU) issued in a decision served on February 26, 2015, in docket number AB-1068 (Sub-No. 3X), any moneys in the fund may be refunded to the individuals or entities that have made contributions to the fund or may be transferred to a new trail sponsor or other entity that has accepted responsibility for management of any portion of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad corridor located east of milepost 215.325 as a public recreational trail under a new NITU subject to the National Trails System Act, 16 U.S.C. Section 1241, et seq.

This article was edited 15 May 2019 to add two update sections and the full text of the bill as Truly Agreed and Finally Passed.

 

Creating a world-class bicycle, pedestrian, and trails transportation network across Missouri is one of the four major goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri. Creating, promoting, and encouraging the implementation of the statewide trails vision along with major trails and trail connections like the Katy and Rock Island are a vitally important parts of that plan.

Your ongoing membership and generous financial support help turn our Vision into reality!