Merry ‘Trailsmas’ — Missouri State Parks inks interim trail use for Rock Island line

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 12/18/19

ELDON — The former Rock Island line is now officially under an interim trail use agreement with the Department of Natural Resources, according to Missouri State Parks Interim Director Mike …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Merry ‘Trailsmas’ — Missouri State Parks inks interim trail use for Rock Island line

Posted

ELDON — The former Rock Island line is now officially under an interim trail use agreement with the Department of Natural Resources, according to Missouri State Parks Interim Director Mike Sutherland Tuesday afternoon.

Sutherland addressed a crowd of Rock Island Trail supporters at the Rock Island Trail City Park in Eldon for a scheduled announcement with Ameren Missouri’s senior vice president of customer and power operations, Mark Birk.

“Many people had piece and part of the Rock Island corridor becoming an asset for Missouri,” Sutherland told supporters while naming advocate groups, Ameren, and state representatives.

Deputy Director of the Department of Natural Resources Dru Buntin said the day has been “long awaited.”

“We are here today for a long awaited answer to a question that was asked three years ago,” Buntin said, adding that the answer to that question would be given by Sutherland.

That question was “would Missouri State Parks be interested in taking over the Rock Island corridor to be a hiking and biking trail.”

“The answer to that question then was ‘we don’t know,’” Sutherland said.

Buntin said the state departments have now finished their due diligence and have an answer for the state.

Sutherland said they were there to answer that question Dec. 17 and give the public some perspective.

“The answer is yes,” Sutherland said. “This has been a long journey, getting to this point and we can now confidently say ‘yes.’”

Sutherland said the state’s interim use agreement that will preserve the 144 miles of trail from Beaufort to Windsor and join the already 47 miles of completed trail from Pleasant Hill to Windsor, is only the beginning. Signing the agreement does not imply that a fully developed trail is certain, according to the state’s press release.

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.

“The effort to get to this point depends on partnerships,” Sutherland said.

Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc., (MoRIT) has been advocating for the rail line to be turned into a linear trail since 2009, according to co-founder and former president Chrysa Niewald.

Niewald is currently serving on the MoRIT Board of Directors.

“We are really, really excited about the fact that this has finally happened,” Niewald said. “It has been 10 years and started as a group of people from the Owensville, Bland, Rosebud, Gerald and Belle in February 2009. Its been a long time coming and we still have a long ways to go in raising money to make the trail happen.”

Mayors of Rosebud, Owensville and Bland attended a meeting with Sutherland Dec. 11 to discuss the future of the trail in their communities. Bland Mayor Lee Medlock said they discussed how soon they could begin working on the trail after State Parks’ acceptance.

“They didn’t know how soon they would get started on it, and it would be slow depending on the money situation,” Medlock said.

Medlock is hoping they could use the town’s equipment, volunteer services and donations to being working on the trail through the city limits of Bland.

Belle Mayor Josh Seaver was unable to attend the Dec. 11 trail meeting in Jefferson City last week, however he is excited about the outcome of Missouri State Park’s decision.

“This is a fantastic thing for not only the state but also our community,” Seaver said. “Fitness opportunities, a chance to enjoy nature and time with families and friends, hopefully bringing some business and interest to our area. I’m very pleased with the announcement and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Owensville Mayor John Kamler was out of town Tuesday afternoon, and unavailable to comment.

“MORIT will continue to fundraise for local projects, but there will be a major fundraising effort that will go along with the legislation created this past May with the Rock Island State Parks Endowment Fund,” Niewald said.

An estimated $65 to $85 million will ultimately be needed to fully develop the trail, according to the DNR. The Missouri State Parks Foundation will be leading that effort. Until the funds are raised, the land remains the property of Missouri Central Railroad, an Ameren Missouri subsidiary, and not open for public use.

Belle Mayor Josh Seaver was unable to attend the Dec. 11 trail meeting in Jefferson City last week, however he is excited about the outcome of Missouri State Park’s decision.

“This is a fantastic thing for not only the state but also our community,” Seaver said. “Fitness opportunities, a chance to enjoy nature and time with families and friends, hopefully bringing some business and interest to our area. I’m very pleased with the announcement and can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

Owensville Mayor John Kamler was out of town Tuesday afternoon, and unavailable to comment.

“MORIT will continue to fundraise for local projects, but there will be a major fundraising effort that will go along with the legislation created this past May with the Rock Island State Parks Endowment Fund,” Niewald said.

She added that she hopes the trail will be completed sooner rather than later.

Buntin said that it would be completed in pieces but that DNR was on board.

“As I continue to think what a Rock Island Trail State Park would take to complete, if that is in our future, I can assure you,” said Buntin, “the Department of Natural Resources is all in.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment