“We are asking all trail supporters to take a couple of minutes to complete the survey,” according to the announcement made on June 20. “Your input will help us let the Governor know there is strong support for the trail.”

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, at the request of Gov. Eric Greitens, is seeking the public’s feedback regarding the development of the Rock Island Trail Project.

According to a posting by the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MORIT), a 501(c)3 non-profit coalition comprised of citizens and communities with the mission of transforming the Rock Island Corridor into a 144.3-mile long hiking and biking trail system, Governor Greitens is asking for comments and suggestions regarding MDNR entering into an Interim Trail Use Agreement.

“We are asking all trail supporters to take a couple of minutes to complete the survey,” according to the announcement made on June 20. “Your input will help us let the Governor know there is strong support for the trail.”

The survey, administered through Survey Monkey, can be found on MDNR’s homepage or at the following link https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/YRQX56F

“The Department of Natural Resources is considering entering into an Interim Trail Use Agreement with Missouri Central Railroad for the purpose of developing the Rock Island Trail Project, a conversion of the former Rock Island Trail corridor into a 143.3-mile long recreational trail from Windsor to Beaufort,” the survey introduction states. “Please provide your thoughts, comments, and suggestions regarding DNR entering into an Interim Trail Use Agreement and the Rock Island Trail Project.”

MORIT Vice-President Mac McNally said the organization welcomes additional feedback.

“We are supporting the feedback for people who are obviously out there talking about the trail,” McNally said on Thursday. “Most of the public meetings that we’ve held we’ve had a lot of positive responses.”

The Rock Island rail line has not been in operation for more than two decades and was purchased by Ameren in 1999. The line runs across the state south of the Missouri River from near St. Louis to Kansas City.

In 2015, Ameren agreed to donate the next 144 miles to the State of Missouri under the Rails-To-Trails law.

Operations to remove and salvage rail from the line are expected to be complete by the end of 2017, at which point the property will be transferred to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Once the property is transferred, the trail will take a number of years to complete.

The first 47 miles of the Rock Island Trail opened on Dec. 10, 2016, connecting the 240 mile Katy Trail at Windsor to greater Kansas City. An estimated 30 miles of the next 144 are within the city limits of 20 former railroad towns, including Versailles, Eldon, Owensville and Gerald.

The towns of Pleasant Hill, Chilhowee, Leeton and Windsor are already getting increased visitors and revenues from the new trail, plus a spike in lodging reservations from all over the world, according to MORIT Director Greg Harris.

In May 2017, more than 50 people turned out for a town hall meeting held in Stover to discuss the project. And in Versailles, Mayor Terry Silvey said his community’s trail committee is working to be ready to build the three miles of trail on the corridor through town as soon as the transfer from the railroad division of Ameren Electric to Missouri State Parks is completed later this year.

In 2015, the city of Eldon received a $22,000 grant from Project Spaces/Livability Solutions connected to the trail project for technical assistance and engaging citizens and stakeholders in developing a plan for the trail through the city.

A donor with local ties has given Eldon $150,000 in matching funds to rebuild a former railroad depot as a welcome center, museum and offices for their Chamber of Commerce.

It will be at the front door of downtown Eldon near its community center. Lake Regional Health Center is developing an outpatient care facility next to the trail. A former manufacturing facility is being renovated as a senior care center.

Both of those health care facilities were located to take advantage of the trail as a new community asset for transportation and exercise for their patients.