Missouri is already known as the “Best Trail State.” Now imagine a 400-mile hiking/biking path spread across Missouri and the recognition and economic benefits it could bring. Some organizers and communities have imagined it. In fact, they’re already working to make it a reality.
The Missouri Rock Island Trail project could link with the award-winning Katy Trail to create a statewide corridor, local organizer Mac McNally said. Taken a step further, it could someday expand into a proposed Quad-State Trail, connecting portions of Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska.
According to an article by lakeexpo.com, the non-profit organization MoRIT (Missouri Rock Island Trail) is working with Ameren-owned Missouri Central Railroad Corporation (MCRC) to sort out a crucial step in the process. MCRC currently owns the right-of-way along the rail lines that MoRIT wants to convert into trails.
In some cases, a rail line owner will relinquish or sell the rights to that land, but MoRIT is seeking an arrangement with MCRC referred to as “rail banking.” This would allow the corporation to retain ownership of the property while giving MoRIT the right to build a trail on top of the rail bed.
MoRIT is asking for a total of 146 rail-banked miles, extending from Geraldto Windsor, Mo.—making this one of the largest sections of rail lines to be banked in the country.
McNally said the communities represented within MoRIT would be responsible for constructing the portion of the trail that fell within their boundaries. Several Missouri communities have already been participating in MoRIT, including Bland, Belle, Eldon, Owensville, Rosebud and Gerald.
The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation has reported that other projects already underway could link with the proposed new trail.
From Windsor to Pleasant Hill, agreements are already in place to create a trail called the Rock Island Trail State Park. Missouri State Parks is currently working on one section of that trail and finalizing legal agreements on the remainder.
From Pleasant Hill in to Kansas City, negotiations are underway for a consortium of cities and counties to purchase the Rock Island corridor for use as a trail and commuter rail corridor.
In addition, a coalition in Sedalia is currently working on a deal to fill in a section of the Katy Trail through the town where riders must currently leave the rail corridor and ride on-street. If Union Pacific agrees, the Katy Trail will become a continuous trail, with no on-street sections, from Clinton to Machens—a distance of 240 miles.
All of these different pieces could one day help connect to a multi-state trail system that would join portions of Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, with recent additions to the trails system touching Illinois as well. This Quad-State Trail plan has long been a vision of the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation.
The latest news on the plan—trails that are in progress, possible, or have been conceptualized by regional leaders—can be found here.
Creating this network of trails along the Rock Island corridor and, later, connecting Missouri and several neighboring states could be “a huge economic boon,” said McNally.