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The Lake News Online
  • Our view: Trail project is vital to the success of Eldon

  • Small communities often struggle to find their niche in a world where their larger neighbors have larger budgets and more resources to survive.
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  • Small communities often struggle to find their niche in a world where their larger neighbors have larger budgets and more resources to survive.
    Such is the case with Eldon. For years, Eldon was referred to as the "Gateway to Lake of the Ozarks." Many of us remember passing through the small community, stopping for last minute supplies, grabbing an ice cream from the Bucket.
    In recent years, it has been a bit more challenging for Eldon. The town that once relied on the railroad fell on hard times, losing many of the factory jobs that had sustained the small community and seeing many of those who used to stop in Eldon to shop for the weekend, head for Lake Ozark and Osage Beach where retail development outpaced what the town had to offer.
    Now Eldon is hanging its hat on developing a segment of the Rock Island Railroad that runs through its community as part of a larger Missouri Rock Island Trail project. The community even relied on team of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps to clear brush for the Rock Island Trail in the fall of 2012.
    Eldon and several other communities along the abandoned Rock Island line are working diligently to create a hiking and biking trail that would eventually connect to the Katy Trail.
    But all of that could come tumbling down if the Missouri Central Railroad Company, which owns most of a 200-mile section of railbed, is sold by Ameren Development Company, a subsidiary of Ameren Corporation. ADC is taking bids until the end of July to sell the land because “the MCRR is no longer part of Ameren’s long-term business strategy.”
    We certainly understand the need to have a solid business strategy, but Ameren has an opportunity to help many of its customer-communities to salvage a part of the state’s heritage, and to create a hiking-biking trail that could draw thousands of visitors to the state.
    Economic development should be the trump card this time. It is a project marked for success for Ameren, the community and for the entire lake area. It is a vision of a better future. The folks of Eldon are willing to put in the time and effort to make the vision a reality.
    More than two decades ago, Boonville had a similar vision. The vision took hold, the community got involved and by the time the Katy Trail began bringing tourists to town, there was hope for a Missouri River a town where the riverboats, like the railroads, stopped running a long time ago.

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