Proposed 145-mile Missouri hiking, biking trail

A proposal to transform an abandoned Missouri rail corridor into a 145-mile, cross-state biking and hiking trail is drawing praise from outdoor enthusiasts and concerns from some landowners.

If converted, the Missouri Rock Island Trail would stretch from Windsor in the western part of the state to the Franklin County town of Beaufort in the east while twice crossing the 236-mile Katy Trail, which is also a state park.

The proposed plan would not do away with the railway itself. Instead, it calls for the corridor to be “railbanked,” a legal term that means that it is made available for public use but allows for the reactivation of rail service by keeping the existing tracks intact.

“Without interim trail use, there’s no future potential for rail service,” said Bill Bryan, director of Missouri state parks.

Concerns, however, include increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic, access to land for livestock, and biosecurity, said Leslie Holloway, director of regulatory affairs at the Missouri Farm Bureau. Another point of contention was whether the economic benefits would outweigh the cost of the trail.

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