A recreational trail through the heart of Eldon will be one step closer to reality when a team of National Service Members arrives next month to clear the old Rock Island Railroad right of way.
The National Service Members will coordinate with Eldon municipal crews who will be cutting trees and brush over the next couple of weeks. Officials recently approved city participation in the project, aimed at completion of a three-mile recreational trail.
Daphney Partridge, Community Resource Director for Eldon Schools and PAVE AmeriCorps director, said the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) grant will bring as many as a dozen NCCC Members in for four-five weeks. Arrangements for housing the NCCC Members are underway with local church groups. “NCCC support is vital to getting the Rock Island Trail project to the next stage of development. We are so grateful to the local churches who have offered their facilities to house the Members. This community support is a tremendous asset to the project,” Partridge said.
NCCC is a full-time, residential National Service program that combines the best practices of civilian service with the best aspects of military service. The mission is to strengthen communities and develop leaders through team-based national and community services. Teams are based out of campuses in several states and deploy within regions to complete projects.
Mayor Ron Bly says the trail will be a benefit to the entire Eldon community, providing recreational opportunities, beautifying the right of way through town and give city officials an economic development tool.
The Eldon right of way is part of the larger Rock Island rail line which runs 245 miles from Maryland Heights, near St. Louis, to Pleasant Hill, near Kansas City. The Department of Natural Resources is currently constructing a 42-mile trail on the right of way between Windsor and Pleasant Hill that will connect to the cross-state Katy Trail. Federal Rails to Trails legislation allows for conversion of unused railroad right of ways to recreation use. Such corridors could revert to rail use in the future. Ameren Missouri acquired the Rock Island right of way in 1999 through the subsidiary Missouri Central Railroad in partnership with General Railway Corporation.
The Katy Trail, one of the most successful biking/hiking projects in the nation, is an example of the conversion of rail lines to recreational use. The Katy runs more than 200 miles along the Missouri River from St. Charles to Clinton. Ameren Missouri, which owns the right of way, has given permission for construction of the Eldon trail.
Lake of the Ozarks Council of Local Governments is assisting the Eldon community with negotiations and construction of the trail. Mac McNally, LOCLG regional planner, has worked with a trail task force to turn the overgrown right of way into a community asset and economic development tool. As the project proceeds, a formal trail organization will be formed.
Page 2 of 2 - Members of the trail task force include Eldon Mayor Ron Bly, Erik Svoboda of the Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent of Eldon Schools Matt Davis, Michael Feeback of Lookout Point Consultants, Eldon City Councilwoman Sharon Harms, Daphney Partridge of PAVE AmeriCorps, Renee Pace and Paul Blanchard from the Eldon schools, Chris Foster, who owns property along right of way, Mac McNally, LOCLG, and Ed Bierbower.