Funding for Rock Island Trail fails in Senate

Railbed communities continue to advocate development

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 5/11/22

The Missouri General Assembly on May 6 approved SB 3020, but withheld all $69 million from the development of the new Rock Island Trail State Park.

Rep. Bruce Sassmann, (R), Bland, 62nd District, …

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Funding for Rock Island Trail fails in Senate

Railbed communities continue to advocate development

Posted

The Missouri General Assembly on May 6 approved SB 3020, but withheld all $69 million from the development of the new Rock Island Trail State Park.

Rep. Bruce Sassmann, (R), Bland, 62nd District, said on Monday he was disappointed the Senate did not approve the funding.

“The Rock Island not passing was a huge disappointment and there are some obstacles that we are going to have to overcome if we ever hope to get funding for the Rock Island,” Sassmann said. “There are some senators who are opposed.”

The Appropriations Committee that opined against funding the Rock Island Trail is led by Chairman Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, and Vice-Chairman Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield.

“The senator who expressed the greatest opposition was Vice-Chair Lincoln Hough,” Sassmann said. “The House was able to uphold the governor’s request for the Rock Island and the Senate did not. It is unclear how Lincoln arrived at that decision.”

Sassmann said he personally received copies of letters from several associations and businesses along the trail, including the American Heart Association, Runway Group, Edward Jones and the Missouri Municipal League.

The Gasconade County R-2 School District is still looking at the trail as a possible means to a safe route to school. The rural location of the campus disallows students from walking to school because of the safety risks of crossing the highway. However, on the trail, students would travel under the overpass and bypass the front of the buildings. 

Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy said the lack of funding and safety concerns pushes off planning for the tail.

“Personally, it would be great for our communities and it would provide more revenue, more tourism to communities for the trail which would be an asset not only to our community but tax revenue for our district,” Hardy said about her personal feeling.

For the district, logistics and safety are still a concern.

“With the trail going through, we would have to look at logistics and safety for students,” Hardy said. “There are some safety concerns around DNR since there is not a playground attached to the trail, then there aren’t a lot of requirements for pedophiles. Some city administrators have discussed where we could attach the playground. The district cannot attach a playground to the trail.”

In the neighboring Belle community, Mayor Josh Seaver said the loss of funding greatly affects the cities along the trail.

“I’m greatly disappointed,” he began. “I feel the Senate Appropriations Committee failed the citizens of Missouri and the tourism industry of Missouri.”

According to Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, the drive to develop the Rock Island Trail will continue without funding from the legislature.

“This is a lost opportunity and that is disappointing,” said Hugh in an email. “But communities along the old railroad and supporters from across the Missouri line have been working for decades to preserve the corridor and develop it as a new State Park and cross-state trail, and have made tremendous progress.  We have a lot of optimism about the future of the trail and the many opportunities to develop it and benefit trail communities and Missouri as a whole.”

Hugh said the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, as well as the trail community, looks forward to working with those who voted against the funding in the General Assembly. And with concerned landowners and organizations to find solutions for Missouri’s newest State Park.

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