Organizers and supporters of the Missouri Rock Island Trail are continuing their efforts to recruit support for the project until the Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Parks issues a decision on the project.

Organizers and supporters of the Missouri Rock Island Trail are continuing their efforts to recruit support for the project until the Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Parks issues a decision on the project. 

The project is under consideration by the state. There is no timeline for a decision . If approved and the project moves forward, the Rock Island Trail would link to the Katy Trail, creating the longest recreational trail in the country. 

Efforts to raise money for the project are ongoing. So far,  Missouri Rock Island Trail Executive Director Greg Harris said more than $600,000 has been pledged to the project. Funds are coming from organizations, towns along the proposed trail and individuals. Two of the larger pledges had been made by the William A Kerr Foundation of St. Louis and Rock Island Village in Eldon. 

“People are recognizing the huge economic boon the trail would be for communities along the corridor and the state as a whole,” MoRIT executive director Greg Harris said.

The planned trail would run along 144 miles of the Missouri Rock Island railroad right of way from Windsor near Kansas City to the St. Louis area.

An additional 47 miles of the right of way between Pleasant Hill and Windsor have already been completed. The Katy Trail links with the Rock Island at Windsor.

The Rock Island Corridor is a 144.3 mile section of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad that runs from Windsor, Missouri, to Beaufort, Missouri. It is owned by Missouri Central Railroad, a subsidiary of Ameren. Ameren Missouri has torn out rails and ties along the corridor and is prepared to gift the property to Missouri State Parks for development of the trail.

From conception to acceptance by the state is a long process. The National Trails System Act established a process known as “railbanking.” Railbanking is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service corridor as a trail until a railroad might need the corridor again for rail service. Because a railbanked corridor is not considered abandoned, it can be sold, leased or donated to a trail manager.

In response to a request submitted by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MoDNR), with concurrence from Missouri Central Railroad, the Surface Transportation Board, a federal adjudicatory board responsible for economic regulatory oversight of railroads, issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use on Feb. 25, 2015.

The Notice of Interim Trail Use authorized MoDNR to negotiate with Missouri Central Railroad for acquisition of the right-of-way for use as a trail under the National Trails System Act. Should the parties conclude negotiations, MoDNR and the railroad may sign an Interim Trail Use Agreement, and Missouri State Parks, a division of MoDNR, would then be responsible for managing the railbanked corridor as a new state park trail.