Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Reconsidering Commitment to Cross-State Rock Island Trail

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Reconsidering Commitment to Cross-State Rock Island Trail

Article excerpt

In his final weeks as governor last December, Jay Nixon announced that a 144-mile stretch of the former Rock Island rail line was on track for transfer to the state by the end of this year for eventual use as a bicycling-hiking trail.

Now state officials under Nixon's successor, Eric Greitens, are reconsidering whether to accept the planned donation of the rail corridor by Ameren, which bought it in 1999 through a subsidiary.

They're essentially doing a cost-benefit analysis to determine the potential long-term impact on the state and the towns along the corridor, stretching from Beaufort in Franklin County to Windsor in western Missouri.

"The Rock Island Trail project stands to be a significant undertaking, and it is essential to understand the immediate and long-term liabilities, costs, benefits and opportunities specific to this project," said Connie Patterson, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Natural Resources.

Rich Germinder, the agency's legislative lobbyist, said the previous administration had not provided enough answers on which to make a decision.

As part of its review, DNR last week began soliciting public comment on the project through a link on its state parks website.

The administration's reconsideration has spurred two groups that have been pushing for the trail to urge members to use the link to express their support.

The organizations are Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc., a nonprofit coalition of trail supporters, and the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.

The bicycle-pedestrian group also wants people to contact the governor's office by email or phone.

"The Rock Island Trail is in jeopardy unless we speak up now," Brent Hugh, the federation's executive director, said in an alert posted Thursday on the group's website.

However, Hugh said in an interview that he's hopeful the new administration in the end will accept the Ameren donation once Missourians weigh in on the subject.

"No politician is going to do that kind of a project unless there's strong public support behind it," he said.

Another supporter of the trail is the Missouri Parks Association, a booster group for state parks.

Association president Steve Nagle plans to raise the issue when he meets this week with Ben Ellis, who recently was appointed as the new state parks director. …

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