Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri's Parks Are at a Critical Juncture

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri's Parks Are at a Critical Juncture

Article excerpt

The Katy Trail is easily one of the most iconic trails in the country. But without funding for critical repairs and improvements, it might not remain that way.

All of our state parks currently face a backlog of nearly $400 million in critical repairs and maintenance, a sum that's grown since 1990. The Katy Trail alone requires nearly $50 million for repairs to stressed bridges and culverts and trails that need resurfacing. In many parks, the electrical and water systems were built in the 1930s and need to be updated, repaired or replaced.

And right now the Missouri Legislature is considering placing a state bond issue on the ballot, which would provide nearly $1 billion for capital improvements. Tens of millions of dollars would go towards state parks. It's about time we give our parks the funding they need.

Stretching 240 miles across nearly the entire state, the Katy is the longest rail to trail park in the country. It started out as the historic Missouri-Kansas-Texas railway and was converted in 1986 to the multi-use trail it is today. Since then, the park has become one of the most popular parks in Missouri. In 2011, AAA Midwest Travelers magazine voted the Katy Trail as the best bicycle trail in the Midwest.

And the Katy Trail is only one of 87 amazing state parks and historical sites across Missouri. Our state parks are among the nation's best, heralded for high quality, sound management, and geological diversity. On five occasions, Missouri's state parks system has been ranked as one of the top four in the country.

What many don't realize is that in addition to being amazing places for people to explore, relax, and reconnect with the natural world, our parks are also tremendous economic assets. State parks support nearly 15,000 jobs across Missouri. In 2011, the nearly 18 million park visitors generated over $1 billion in economic activity in the state. …

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