Rails to Trails Conservancy members share journey with Rock Island Trail

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 12/22/21

The former Rock Island line is making history as it transforms into a linear park that joins with the famous Katy Trail.

Rock Island Trail Conservancy’s Brandi Horton and Marianne Fowler …

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Rails to Trails Conservancy members share journey with Rock Island Trail

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The former Rock Island line is making history as it transforms into a linear park that joins with the famous Katy Trail.

Rock Island Trail Conservancy’s Brandi Horton and Marianne Fowler share their journey in advocating for the Rock Island line to a hiking and biking trail.

“How do we turn this into a trail? Right now it is a rock corridor,” Fowler began. “For years now the basic right of way has been bare ground.”

Fowler said the trail development plan happens to coincide with the newly passed federal transportation bill.

“Luckily we have just been through the reauthorization for transportation plan at the federal level and are able to increase funding,” she said. “It’s serendipitous to this situation. The Rock Island line is perfectly poised to take advantage of the new funding of transportation.”

Funding under the new bill will increase from $18,636,252 to a projected $31,681,628.

“Congress has decided appropriation earmarks in future and always the RAISE grants - Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity,” Fowler said. “Part of the economic stimulus package passed in 2008 was money purposed to build infrastructure facilities that boost economies. Everyone thought at the end of the Obama Administration that it would go away, but it was too popular.”

Former President Donald Trump’s administration changed the name and focus and now President Joe Biden’s Administration has too. 

“More funding sources are available for this trail than ever before,” Fowler said. “I think one of the state’s major concerns along the trail has been ‘where does funding for the trail come from?”

Ameren Missouri made a donation of the Rock Island line to the state but development and maintenance were an issue.

Fowler and Horton planned to meet with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Dec. 14 after the  acceptance of the trail at Rock Island Park in Eldon to share the funding that is available for the development of the trail.

“We are prepared to talk about all the new funding for trail that is available,” they said. 

Currently, most of the federal funding for trails comes from the recreational trails program — focusing on small, discrete projects. That is problematic for a long-distance trail as it would take a long time to build the whole thing in small sections.

“Originally with this bill, there were networks in cities and spines — which were long distances,” Fowler said. “We knew the Rock Island trail would happen eventually. It is going to need larger amounts of money before the community can receive to develop a corridor into a trail. We are totally excited that these two things happen together.”

Fowler said it would have been hard to have the trail without the funding, but the timing has been perfect (Next week: Development).

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