Several Franklin County equestrian groups are pushing for a trail in Robertsville State Park that would allow horseback riding.
About 30 people attended an open house at the park Thursday, Sept. 19, to discuss the status of a multi-use trail that was part of the park’s 1986 conceptual plan.
A group, which included the Moolah Mounted Lancers and the Missouri Back Country Horsemen, a local chapter of a national trail riders service organization, had made an effort to establish a trail several years ago, but the plans never came to fruition.
Brian Stith, assistant district supervisor for the Eastern Parks District of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, said the parks system has suffered from a poor economy the last few years and the disaster at the Taum Sauk reservoir in Reynolds County also took its toll on making any funds for a trail available in the park’s budget.
The Mounted Lancers have been working with the Eastern Parks District to submit a proposal that would allow the group to put in a spur trail to gain access to Robertsville State Park from their nearby ranch.
Lancer Allen Coggins said the proposal had not yet been submitted because of an issue with the river.
“We have resolved that issue, but are waiting on engineers to send a letter saying we are good to go,” he said.
Coggins expects to send the proposal to the parks department within the next week. He said the Lancers’ proposal would include some sort of trailhead that would be accessible to the public.
In addition to the trailhead proposed by the Lancers, Stith said there also would need to be a larger trailhead established within the park that would make the trail accessible to all types of users.
The trail itself would probably be a five-mile loop that would skirt the perimeter of the park, but the proposed route would have to be approved by the park’s trail coordinator after it was seen by DNR archaeologists.
“We have some areas we have to avoid,” Stith said. “There are areas that are culturally significant, (including) areas related to Native Americans, a natural area, cemeteries, both marked and unmarked and a heron rookery.”
Mounted Lancer Bob Amelung said details, including the proposed route for the trail, were submitted and approved years ago.
“We led an effort in 2003 or 2005,” he said. “The park already has done all that. There is already a trail drawing and trails were already plotted with respect to the cemeteries already mentioned. It’s somewhat disturbing to hear the rhetoric that someone didn’t give you the files that happened years ago. They are all right here.”
Coggins had a file containing the proposed trail route, but Stith said he wasn’t sure if the drawings had been seen and approved by the trail coordinator.
The Lancers said they could resubmit the file to the Eastern Parks District office.
Stith said once a proposal is submitted and approved, funding would have to be found.
“Three years ago we were as low as we can go financially,” he said. “Most of our revenue is based off sales tax, and when sales tax bottomed out so did our revenues. We’re just starting to come out of that low point.”
People attending the meeting were frustrated that it is taking such a long time to make the trail a reality.
“This has been going on for quite a few years,” one man said. “I would imagine you have the rules you guys like to follow and problems, but the wheels have been spinning extremely slowly for the last four or five years.”
Stith said with the information from the Lancers, final approval on trail plans could come in two to four months. Funding, however, could take more time.
“We don’t put a trail in our conceptional plan with the hopes that it doesn’t get created,” Stith said. “We’ll submit a project request and see where it goes.”