Greg Harris, executive director of the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc., group on Monday asked Owensville aldermen to consider entering into a right-of-entry agreement with Ameren Missouri to allow …
Greg Harris, executive director of the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc., group on Monday asked Owensville aldermen to consider entering into a right-of-entry agreement with Ameren Missouri to allow local maintenance access to the rail bed through town.
Harris, supported by about a dozen local rails-to-trail proponents, suggested aldermen form a trail committee and look into gaining permission to access the railbed through town. If a trail committee would support efforts, access to the railbed and a 100-foot wide corridor would allow for access to maintaining the local sections now that the interim trail use agreement has been reached between Missouri State Parks and Ameren.
“That’s something we would like to make official,” said Harris. “This would allow you to be on the corridor to maintain it.”
Asked, he told aldermen he had heard of public entities carrying liability insurance as part of their commitment to such an agreement.
Harris reminded aldermen that the State Parks and Ameren agreement for trail use carried the stipulation that $9.8 million must be raised privately over the next 10 years to fund preparation for the trail and provide some security personnel.
Chrysa Niewald, past president of MoRIT, told aldermen a professional fund-raiser working with the group was “fairly optimistic” about seeking out private and grant funding sources.
“Access to grants — that’s where all the money is,” said Harris.
He cited an example as a fund controlled by the Missouri Department of Transportation which is earmarked specifically for non-motorized transportation projects. That fund does not take money away from regular state highway and bridge projects, Harris said.
Ward 1 Alderman Kevin McFadden asked Harris if a right-of-entry agreement was contingent on a city’s acceptance of the trail. No, said Harris, it was to “help maintain” the cleared right-of-way. There would still be no trespassing allowed on the corridor as currently indicated by signs posted at local road crossings across the state.
Harris told aldermen the section of trail from Beaufort to Belle was expected to be the least costly portion to develop since there were only two major bridge crossings (Soap Creek and U.S. 50) which will require the most-expensive safety improvements. Cost estimates of $60,000 per mile have been circulated with bridges adding a considerable expense.
“Way less in Owensville,” said Harris.
The use agreement between State Parks and Ameren also provides the possibility of developing additional miles of trail potentially from Beaufort to Union with construction beside the existing track. Coal cars are still stored along the remaining tracks from Union out to Beaufort.
Mayor John Kamler told the crowd he had a “very good meeting” with State Parks official Mike Southerland in December. Kamler said he and the mayors of Bland and Rosebud.
“I think it opened Mike’s eyes quite a bit,” said Kamler about localized support for trail development along the eastern end of the former rail line.
The provision for trail supporters to raise funds to help with development seemed to be a factor for entering into the interim trail use agreement by State Park officials.
“I think it’s encouraging myself,” said Kamler.
He added that Southerland had mentioned too that donations for trail development would be held in a trail fund and not go into the general revenue account for State Parks.
Ward 1 Alderman Cathy Lahmeyer said they’d take the idea of forming the committee “under advisement” and look into the right-of-entry agreement option after having their attorney review it. Harris said he’d provide the city with a copy of the agreement for their attorney to review.