The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has signed an Interim Trail Use Agreement with Missouri Central Railroad Company, a subsidiary of Ameren Missouri, paving the way for the railbanking of 144 miles of the former Rock Island railroad corridor, which stretches from Windsor to Beaufort, Missouri. The Interim Trail Use Agreement ensures the preservation of the corridor for future transportation use and facilitates the eventual donation of the property for recreational use.
However, that does not mean the proposed Rock Island Trail is a certainty. 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.
Missouri State Parks has sought the Rock Island corridor for several decades. At 144 miles, Rock Island Trail State Park would be the nation’s fourth longest rail-trail and would attach to the longest, the 240-mile Katy Trail State Park.
The first 47-mile segment of the Rock Island Trail, the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park, opened in December 2016. The next segment is anticipated to have high usage and economic impact, as it runs through towns every 2 to 10 miles. A full 41 percent of Missourians live within 50 miles of the corridor, according to a study conducted by the University of Missouri Extension.
The project’s funding will likely require a combination of private, public, and corporate sources. You can assist with the acquisition and development of the Rock Island Trail by donating to the Missouri State Parks Foundation. Mail your check to Missouri State Parks Foundation, 201 W. Broadway, Building 4, Columbia, MO 65203 or donate online at mostateparks.com/rockislandlinecorridor.