Big things are happening for the Rock Island Corridor in Missouri! On December 14th, 2021, Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced that the 144-mile abandoned Rock Island rail corridor will be donated by Ameren to become the future Rock Island Trail State Park. This linear park will connect Katy Trail State Park directly to nearly two dozen additional communities along the corridor, and offers new economic and recreational opportunities to the region as well as health benefits to residents along the trail. As part of the state’s investment in the success of the trail, Missouri Governor Mike Parson announced during his 2022 State of the State address that $69 million will be requested for allocation in Missouri’s upcoming budget.
In order to begin the planning process for Missouri’s newest state park, Missouri State Parks began the process to host formal community engagement events for future trail communities. The meetings followed roughly the same agenda in all three communities, and were held in-person with strong attendance:
Each community meeting brought their own excitement, relief, questions, and concerns, and the first set of meetings marked the first step in the next phase of the years-long efforts to establish a Rock Island Trail State Park. MRT’s Project Director, Ron Bentch, attended each of these meetings, and enjoyed hearing the variety of voices that spoke about the project. Below is a short summary from each of these meetings:
The first meeting kicked off in Versailles. Many people attended the meeting with particular excitement, even though the news of the governor’s budget allotment priorities for the trail were not announced until the following day. Some individuals brought concerns about trail visitors trespassing on their land, although a park ranger for the Katy Trail provided reassurance that the vast majority of their calls were from people who ran out of water or rode their bicycles further than their comfort level. In other words, MO State Parks park rangers spent more time assisting park visitors than pursuing crime along the trail. Additionally, Versailles is also in the midst of several other bicycle and pedestrian projects in the community, including building additional crosswalks across state highways, installing wayfinding signage along a new bicycle route, and building new sidewalks (some of which will connect to the future Rock Island Trail). The Versailles Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan  informs many of these projects, and took the trail into consideration for the city’s bicycle and pedestrian planning.
The next meeting was held in Owensville, which is home to many dedicated advocates and supporters of the trail development efforts. Owensville also had a large turnout, especially since there was growing excitement about the trail following the news the previous day about the governor’s proposed budget allotment for trail development. What stood out during this meeting was a guest named Dan Furman, who shared with us about his desire to see the Lead Mine Rail Line become a trail. For those interested, you can find more information about advocacy for a Lead Mine Rail Trail in this Facebook group that Dan started. Again, this serves as a reminder that there is a growing desire that people want to have safe and accessible outdoor spaces in their communities.
Freeburg hosted the third scheduled informational meeting. A number of people attended this meeting and brought forward their concerns about the trail, such as landowners and individuals that felt it might change their community. What stood out during this meeting was the attitude of each of the MO State Parks staff. They demonstrated a willingness and interest to answer questions, listen to concerns, and share their expertise through the research and planning that they have conducted along the Rock Island Corridor, and through their 30-year history of working with landowners and communities along the Katy Trail.
Look out for future Rock Island Line Corridor informational meetings hosted by MO State Parks! Review this information shared by MO State Parks during the meetings, and check out this list of upcoming scheduled meetings to see if a meeting will be hosted in a community near you. Missourians for Responsible Transportation is also hosting virtual informational meetings about Rock Island Corridor updates. If you are interested in attending these meetings, email us at email@example.com for more information.
Read this article about Owensville’s Rock Island Trail Informational meeting here [via Gasconade County Republican]: https://www.gasconadecountyrepublican.com/stories/state-park-planning-begins-for-rock-island-trail-officials-happy-with-local-development-interest,41970
Learn more about the Rock Island Line Corridor here: https://mostateparks.com/rockislandlinecorridor