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The Lake News Online
  • Petition aims to save Rock Island Trail effort

  • A petition with more than 10,000 signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail was turned over to Ameren Missouri by a statewide federation hoping to sway the utility company to move forward with a proposed trail to enhance bicycling and hiking opportunities.
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  • A petition with more than 10,000 signatures in support of the Rock Island Trail was turned over to Ameren Missouri by a statewide federation hoping to sway the utility company to move forward with a proposed trail to enhance bicycling and hiking opportunities.
    The trail would incorporate abandoned rail line in and around the Eldon area. Supporters of the Rock Island Rail Trail initiated a petition drive earlier this year. The drive was undertaken by the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.
    Missouri Central Railway — a subsidiary of Ameren Corporation — owns the majority of the line. Before the project can move forward, Ameren must decide the future of the right of way. A decision is expected by the end of August.
    "Creating this new rail trail across Missouri will leave a legacy for Ameren, for Missouri State Parks, and for the Rock Island Communities across Missouri that will benefit our children and grandchildren for generations to come," said Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.
    "Within the next few weeks and months, Ameren will take steps that will either preserve the corridor for future generations, or lose it forever. Ameren, Missouri State Parks, and the communities involved are all working together to do the right thing to preserve the corridor for future generations,” Hugh said. “We want to let everyone involved know that there is strong community support for preserving the corridor as part of cross-state rail-trail system."
    The Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MORIT), is leading the project. Ameren Missouri is seeking private bids to sell the Missouri Central Railroad Company (MCR), which owns most of the 200-mile Rock Island line. As part of the process, Ameren sent confidential Request for Bid packages to potential purchasers.
    Initially, MORIT was left out of the process. But Ameren officials eventually decided to allow MORIT to participate in the bidding process. In addition, the deadline for submitting bids was extended.
    A railbanked trail on the corridor would create economic growth opportunities for local communities and could result in a world-class trail that would intersect the Katy Trail.
    Ameren Development Company (ADC), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Ameren Corporation, is seeking to divest its ownership of the MCRR. A spokesman for the company said the sale is taking place “because the MCRR is no longer part of its long-term business strategy.”
    The MCRR is part of the former Rock Island line (formerly owned by the Union Pacific Railroad) and runs from St. Louis County to Windsor. The eastern 40 miles of the line are still operating under a lease arrangement with Central Midland Railway Corporation (CMR). The western most 145 miles is inactive but is also covered by the lease with CMR which has common carrier obligations. At the farthest western end, five miles have been abandoned and sold to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) for use as a bike trail. Ameren is finalizing arrangements to transfer a connected 42 miles to MDNR for trail use.
    Page 2 of 2 - The trail concept in the lake area began three years ago with a volunteer committee in Eldon looking at options to turn the abandoned Rock Island Railroad line into an asset for the community instead of the liability it had become after the rail service was abandoned many years ago.
    Earlier this year, the committee started to branch out after contact from Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc., a group of communities near Owensville that had previously formed a consortium to try to get a trail along the entire Rock Island line.
    Since its inception, the proposal to create the trail along the old railway in Eldon has expanded to encompass the entire line from the Kansas City to St. Louis areas, and organizers involved with the project say they are working on ironing out property ownership to move forward with the "rails to trails" project that would cut across the northern portion of the Lake of the Ozarks region.
    The concept envisions something similar to the Katy Trail, a successful rails to trails project that runs on the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas (KATY) Missouri Pacific line roughly parallel to Rock Island to the north. The Rock Island Trail would potentially run around 146 miles from Union in the east to Pleasant Hill in the west or possibly Windsor or Cole Camp and could connect with the Katy Trail.
    The trail could also connect to other biking routes that could be possibly be developed alongside roadways - such as one already suggested down Route Y to W to Bagnell Dam - or down utility lines for possible mountain bike paths to the lake.
    The federation got involved to help promote the trail concept.
     

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