Gov. Jay Nixon has announced that by the end of 2016, Missouri State Parks expects to complete an extension of the Katy Trail from Windsor to Pleasant Hill along the Rock Island Trail State Park. The 47.5-mile-long extension will allow hikers and cyclists from the Kansas City region greater access to the 240-mile long Katy Trail, which runs from Clinton to St. Charles County.

“One of my top priorities as Governor has been to improve and expand our outstanding state park system and give Missouri families and visitors even more ways to enjoy the outdoors,” Gov. Nixon said. “At a time when other states were closing state parks or charging entrance fees, here in Missouri we worked hard to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities by expanding access to affordable outdoor recreation. This extension of the nationally-recognized Katy Trail will continue to provide Missourians and visitors alike with an outstanding opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Show-Me State.”

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Katy Trail. As the longest developed rail-trail in the U.S., the Katy has been inducted into the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Hall of Fame and has also been nominated for various awards that recognize its outstanding recreational opportunities and role in making communities quality places in which to live.

“Katy Trail State Park provides a national and international destination to hike and bicycle through the varied landscapes of our state,” said Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks. “Thanks to the support and generosity of Ted and Pat Jones, and all of the trail’s supporters 25 years ago, this recreational asset continues to provide economic impact and outdoor opportunities to thousands each year. The Rock Island extension to the west will only enhance these benefits.”

Since taking office in 2009, Gov. Nixon has made increasing access to state parks for Missouri families a top priority. Under the Governor’s leadership, Missouri has also been named the best camping state, the best trails state and its state parks have consistently ranked among the best in the nation.

Missouri trails and state parks are important drivers of tourism and economic activity. An economic impact study found that visitors to state parks produced an overall economic impact of $1.02 billion and supported more than 14,000 Missouri jobs.  Another study found that Katy Trail State Park alone generates nearly $18.5 million a year in economic impact for the state, supports 367 jobs, and makes an overall economic impact of $8.2 million to the local trail communities.

Missouri State Parks saw record attendance in 2014 with more than 18.5 million guests, representing a nearly 25 percent increase since 2008. Parks also saw a 5.1 percent increase in camping occupancy at the 40 state parks and historic sites that offer almost 3,600 campsites. Youth camping also increased, with 26 percent of campers staying the night in a state park being under 18 years of age.

Gov. Nixon has also made a significant investment in the existing state parks and historic sites that make up the park system.  During fiscal years 2014 and 2015, approximately $18 million was invested in improving and maintaining facilities in the park system. An additional $10 million in investments in improvements to state parks and historic sites throughout Missouri will be made through a strategic bond issuance, made possible by the state’s strong fiscal discipline.

In 2013, the Governor launched the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge to celebrate Missouri being named the “Best Trails State” in America. The Challenge encourages Missourians to complete 100 miles of outdoor physical activity in one year. Over the last two years, more than 25,000 participants have logged over 4.3 million miles, including 431 miles by the Governor and 383 miles by the First Lady, in 2015 alone.

In May, American Trails recognized Missouri with the Outstanding Media Award for the Governor’s 100 Missouri Mile Challenge initiative.