Missouri State Parks and Ameren sign historic railbanking agreement for Rock Island Trail Corridor; now must raise $9.8 million before beginning trail development

Today officials from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Ameren signed an "interim trail use agreement" that allows the 144 miles of the Rock Island railroad corridor between Windsor and Beaufort to move towards development as Rock Island Trail State Park in the near future. 

Dru Buntin of the Missouri DNR and Mark Birk of Ameren Missouri
Dru Buntin of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Mark Birk of Ameren Missouri sign the historic agreement

The agreement today railbanks the 144-mile section of the corridor and puts it on track for trail development within two years--if all goes well.

This is the most significant single step we have seen in moving towards Rock Island Trail State Park. Though there is still significant work to be done, the signing today shows a very significant commitment on the part of both State Parks and Ameren Missouri to move forward with the transfer of the corridor and the creation of the Rock Island Trail State Park.

Rock Island Trail supporters react

"Missouri is incredibly lucky; corridors of this type are few and far between. That's why we've been working so hard alongside our partners in the state to protect this corridor and its potential to become a world-class trail," said Eric Oberg, director of trail development for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC's) Midwest Regional Office.

"So many people—from Missouri, across the country and around the world—are looking forward to the day they can experience the Rock Island Trail. Today, we're closer than ever before to making that experience a reality."

"This is a good day for the Rock Island Trail," said Greg Harris, executive director of Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc.

"All along the route of the Rock Island line, there is incredible enthusiasm for what a trail could deliver—economic opportunity, tourism, recreation and more. We've heard from tens of thousands of Missourians that they want this trail. The Rock Island Trail communities are ready to do their part to develop the trail. Now, the state is taking a big step in making that happen. Next is getting this deal to a place where we can begin to break ground."

A joint news release from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and MoRIT summarizes the situation and next steps. 

Next steps: What will it take to create Rock Island Trail State Park now?

In order to finally accept the corridor and begin development, the Missouri State Parks Foundation is working to raise $9.8 million that will allow State Parks to secure the corridor, install needed fencing, and staff and manage the corridor for a decade.

Due to restrictions placed by the Missouri legislature and state leaders, the Rock Island development must be completed without using any existing Missouri State Parks funds. So the $9.8 million must be raised by some combination of private and outside funds.

As soon as that $9.8 million is raised and in hand, Ameren will officially transfer the corridor to Missouri State Parks.

The agreement signed today puts a time limit of two years in place to raise that initial $9.8 million.

MoBikeFed, Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MoRIT), Trailnet, PedNet, Ozark Greenways, BikeWalkKC, Missourians for Responsible Transportation, the Missouri Parks Association, Missouri Parks and Recreation Association, Missouri Conservation Federation, and a variety of other supporting groups and agencies have been working in cooperation with the Missouri State Parks Foundation to create a capitol campaign to raise the $9.8 million needed to accept the corrido--and additional funding beyond that to actually build portions of the trail.

How can you help move the project forward now?

Any individuals or donors who wish to contribute to this project can contact the Missouri State Parks Foundation.

If you know of, or can suggest individuals, businesses, or organization who can make a significant contribution towards, the trail, the State Parks Foundation would love to hear those, as well.

The State Parks Foundation is ready to receive donations in support of the trail now!

Ameren donates Eldon Depot

The Eldon Rock Island Depot was donated by Ameren to the City of Eldon today
The Eldon Rock Island Depot was donated by Ameren to the City of Eldon today

One exciting addition to today's signing was the official transfer of the Eldon Depot from Ameren to the City of Eldon. The Depot is immediately adjacent to the Rock Island Park in Eldon. The park acts as a natural trailhead for the Rock Island in Eldon, and the Depot will become a community center.

 

Like much of the Rock Island line, the depot has been neglected and deteriorating for nearly 40 years.  Communities all up and down the Rock Island line are looking at the trail as an opportunity to turn a neglected, overgrown, and deteriorating eyesore into a regional economic, health, and tourism asset.

The details: Missouri Department of Natural Resources/Ameren Press Release about today's agreement

Department of Natural Resources and Ameren Missouri’s Missouri Central Railroad sign agreement on Rock Island Line Corridor

JEFFERSON CITY, MO, DEC. 17, 2019 – The Missouri Department of Natural Resources today signed an Interim Trail Use Agreement with Missouri Central Railroad Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ameren Missouri, paving the way for the future railbanking of 144 miles of the former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad corridor, which stretches from Windsor to Beaufort, Missouri. The Interim Trail Use Agreement ensures the preservation of the former railroad corridor for future transportation use and facilitates the eventual donation of the property to the department for recreational trail use.

Warren Wood of Ameren Missouri announces the donation of the Eldon Depot to the city
Warren Wood of Ameren Missouri announces the donation of the Eldon Depot to the city

“Successfully negotiating an Interim Trail Use Agreement was a crucial first objective in this process, and I’m glad we finally reached it,” said Dru Buntin, deputy director of the Department of Natural Resources. “It’s important to remember that this was just the first step on what promises to be a long journey. We can all envision a world-class trail while acknowledging there will be some challenges between here and there.”

“Today’s trail agreement marks a significant milestone in Ameren Missouri’s efforts to donate the remaining 144 miles of the scenic Rock Island Corridor to the state for possible use as a recreational trail,” said Mark Birk, senior vice president of customer and power operations for Ameren Missouri. “Over the last several years, we have been preparing the land for future use by clearing vegetation and removing steel and railroad ties. We will continue to work toward the vision of this trail one day becoming a world-class biking destination that will benefit the communities along the trail.”

Signing the agreement does not imply that a fully developed trail is certain. The agreement requires approximately $9.8 million be raised before the property will be transferred to the department to help cover initial development, security and management costs. For now, the corridor remains Missouri Central Railroad’s property and is not open for public use. An estimated total of $65 million to $85 million will ultimately be needed to fully develop the trail. Leading the fundraising effort will be the Missouri State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to support Missouri’s state park system. The project’s funding will likely require a combination of private, public and corporate sources. Interested donors should contact the Missouri State Parks Foundation to learn more about partnering in this effort.

“We are looking forward to working closely with the Missouri State Parks Foundation on this project,” said Mike Sutherland, interim division director of Missouri State Parks. “The scope of this project is massive, but the foundation is uniquely positioned to bring together a wide array of supporters into a diverse partnership that is unified behind a single goal.”

If adequate funding can be raised, the proposed trail will have to be developed in sections, each of which will present its own construction challenges.

More information about the Rock Island Line Corridor is available at mostateparks.com.

 

In 2014, representatives of MoBikeFed and Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc, met w

The 144-mile section of the Rock Island under discussion

One of the top goals of MoBikeFed's Vision for Bicycling and Walking in Missouri is building a world-class bicycle and pedestrian transportation system in Missouri.  The addition of the Rock Island Trail to Missouri's statewide trail system is potentially the biggest single advance we have seen in Missouri in over 20 years.

Your membership and generous financial contributions help turn our Vision into reality--building the statewide public support for bicycling, walking, and trails that make major advances like the Rock Island Trail possible.

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