More than 50 people attended a recent meeting in Stover to discuss the coming of the Rock Island Trail.
The Rock Island Trail project will extend along an inactive rail line from Beaufort in Franklin County to Windsor near Kansas City, Mo.
The rail line runs across the state, but is active from Union to Chesterfield. There are no plans to convert the rail to a trail on the stretch that runs through Union, because it is heavily used by area industries.
The meeting was chaired by Stover Mayor Brenda Steffans.
Those in attendance heard presentations from Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc.’s executive director and Windsor City Administrator Kim Henderson about what to expect when the trail comes to town.
Windsor became the link between the Rock Island and Katy trails in December when the first 47 miles of the RIT was officially opened in Pleasant Hill near Kansas City.
In the months since, visitor numbers in the towns along the newly opened route have skyrocketed as outdoor enthusiasts get out and enjoy the new trail.
Henderson has both private and public knowledge of the advantages of the trail.
She has invested in rental cabins for trail users in her town. “I’m suddenly booked through the season,” Henderson said of her rental experience. “People are coming from around the world to Windsor, attracted by the expanding Missouri trail system.”
Other business people and public officials along the route are getting ready for the coming boom. In Versailles, just a few miles east of Stover, 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.
Harris said excitement is growing all along the Rock Island corridor.
“From the boom Windsor and Pleasant Hill are seeing from the December opening of the first 47 miles of the Rock Island to the first 1.5 miles of trail being built in Belle, communities up and down the line are expecting great things from the trail,” Harris said. “In Eldon a new care center and a regional clinic are being built on the corridor and everywhere people are moving to have their communities benefit.”
MORIT is a statewide nonprofit organization working toward development of the Rock Island right-of-way into a recreational trail. The line runs across the state south of the Missouri River from near St. Louis to Kansas City. Rock Island Trail Inc. originally intended to do just a small section spanning Owensville, but found people in nearby towns working on similar projects. Because they shared a similar interest, the groups decided to work together to get the recreational trails along the stretch of rails from Windsor to Beaufort.
The Rock Island rail line has not been in operation for more than two decades and was purchased by Ameren in 1999.
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.