After more than two decades of uncertainty since the Missouri Department of Natural Resources first indicated its interest in securing nearly 200 miles of the Rock Island rail corridor between the outskirts of St. Louis and Kansas City for conversion to a hiking and biking trail, the western segment from its junction with the Katy Trail at Windsor to Pleasant Hill was dedicated and opened for public use as a state park in December 2016, with various local governments and organizations pledging to complete the trail into Kansas City. That same month, Ameren announced its intent to donate its 144-mile right-of-way from Windsor east to Beaufort to the state after rail salvage was completed in 2017, and Governor Nixon proudly indicated the state’s intent to accept the offer.
After the Greitens administration took the reins of the governor’s office in 2017, MoDNR solicited public comment as to whether the state should enter into an official Interim Trail Use Agreement under the federal Rails-to-Trails Act and take possession of the corridor. To some, this was an intimation that the state might not accept the trail, though state park officials explained that they were simply doing due diligence on a very expensive project that they estimated could cost well over $50 million. More than 8,000 public comments were submitted, virtually all of which are now available on the state park website, along with other information about the Rock Island.
Facing a federal deadline to decide whether to take responsibility for the Rock Island corridor, Missouri State Parks held more public meetings in 2018, posting substantial new information online about challenges and potential costs and seeking additional comment. Then on December 17, 2019, after securing a commitment from the Missouri State Parks Foundation to lead a fundraising campaign, MoDNR signed an Interim Trail Use Agreement; the agreement was contingent on MSPF success in raising $9.8 million for initial development, security, and management costs before DNR would take title to the corridor, which remains closed until then.
Missouri Parks Association has long supported the addition of the Rock Island to the state park system and strongly encourages DNR and Missouri State Parks to take possession of the corridor in order to secure it for the future. MPA also encourages trail supporters to contribute to the State Parks Foundation campaign for the trail through its website: www.missouristateparksfoundation.org/donations.
For more information:
Read the case statement for the Missouri State Parks Foundation Rock Island campaign.
View MPA’s resolution on the Rock Island Trail.
See an Opportunity Analysis of the Rock Island Trail prepared by University of Missouri Extension.
Read the history of the Rock Island Railroad and the proposed state park in the January 2015 issue of Heritage.
See an update on the fundraising campaign in the October 2019 issue of Heritage.
Visit the state park website to view information, FAQs, and public comments about the Rock Island corridor.
To keep up to date, visit the website of Missouri Rock Island Trail or its Facebook page.