KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - A group that advocates for creating biking and hiking trails along abandoned rail lines wants a second cross-state trail in Missouri that would link with the Katy Trail to establish a 400-mile loop across the state.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is one of several organizations seeking to buy 145 acres of an abandoned rail corridor from Ameren Corp. The St. Louis-based company has not said when it will choose a buyer for the corridor, which was put up for sale in the spring, The Kansas City Star reported.
If the Washington D.C.-based conservancy is chosen, it would give the corridor to the state’s park system to develop the Rock Island Trail. It would link Kansas City and St. Louis with the Lake of the Ozarks area, while also providing new visitors and an economic boost to towns such as Eldon, Versailles and Owensville, said trail advocate Mac McNally.
“We think it’s a huge thing, not just for the individual communities, but the entire state,” Mr. McNally said.
If the trail is built, it would be linked in a loop with the Katy Trail, which each year attracts 400,000 visitors and brings nearly $20 million into Missouri’s economy.
“This would be a global tourist destination,” said Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation. “No other state is going to have this kind of system.”
Ameren bought the Rock Island corridor that runs from Pleasant Hill to St. Louis in 1999 and intended to restore freight rail service along the line. But the Ameren-owned Missouri Central Railroad Co. never ran trains except on the far eastern end of the line.
The company’s decision to solicit bids for a 145-mile section of the corridor in the center of the state surprised trail advocates. Representatives from towns along the rail line had been in talks with Ameren for a couple of years about converting the corridor to trail use and formed a corporation, Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc., with a goal of eventually building a trail between Windsor and just east of Owensville.
After group President Chrysa Niewald complained to state and federal officials that Ameren hadn’t consulted with it, the company extended the deadline by two weeks so trail backers could submit a bid. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy offered what that group’s president, Keith Laughlin, describes only as an “eight-figure” offer.
Ameren spokesman Warren Wood said he was impressed by the 11,000 comments the company has received in support of a trail.
“Ameren recognizes the interest in these bike trails,” he said.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, https://www.kcstar.com
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