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News :: Environment : Missouri : Rural Issues
Missouri DNR Endangering Katy Trail Current rating: 3
11 Feb 2006
Modified: 08:32:41 PM
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is not taking steps it knows to be necessary to prevent the Katy Trail State Park from being divided, and possibly reclaimed by landowners. As a result, the department is being sued by the state Attorney General and other parties.
Union Pacific and the Missouri DNR, in effect, wish to abandon the old railroad bridge at Boonville, MO, which is located on the Katy Trail Corridor. This is occurring against the wishes of the residents of Boonville, who would like to make the historic a bridge a tourist attraction. This abandonment has legal implications, since the old railroad corridor that the Katy Trail State Park sits on is presently designated for "interim use," meaning that it must be preserved for the railroad's right of way, should ever the corridor become a rail line again.

Although it is very unlikely the Katy Trail will ever be reclaimed by the railroad, the was only way the bike/hiking trail's founders could establish the path in the first place. The "Interim Use Agreement" requires that the Katy Trail Corridor remain connected to the national rail network to legally justify its "interim" status, and thus its continued protection from landowners. Removing the bridge at Boonville would not actually sever the trail, since there is a nearby highway bridge, but it would break the trail's connection to the national rail network, and it could prompt landowners to reclaim portions of the trail. Once the trail is interrupted by private land, it would be very difficult to restore, if not impossible, and the viability of the entire trail as a recreational park would be in danger.

The Missouri DNR, controlled by Republican Governor Blunt, plans to relinquish its commitment to maintain the Boonville bridge. The department is doing so despite knowing full well that doing so would endanger the Katy Trail, since the department recently sought legal advice on the subject from Charles Montange, an expert in rail-trails law. In response, Democrat Attorney General Jay Nixon is suing the department, claiming the state has no standing to relinquish to bridge to a private company (i.e. Union Pacific), especially when it is known that company plans to dismantle the bridge. A woman who donated $2.2million to help the state develop the trail has also joined this lawsuit. Furthermore, Ron Kucera, the former deputy director for policy at the DNR, has resigned his post over the state's handling of the bridge.

The Katy Trail State Park stretches for 225 miles from St. Charles to Clinton, and it runs along the Missouri River through some of the most scenic areas of the state. The trail was created in 1987, after Union Pacific ceased rail service on the line the year before. It is by far the longest bike trail in Missouri, and the longest rail-trail conversion in the country. The Katy Trail sees hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, and there are 300 businesses (bed & breakfasts, etc.) which depend on trail visitors. Severing this trail at any point would be a serious blow to the park's popularity, and gravely hurt people who depend on it.

Although this issue has been developing for over a year, its details and their implications on the trail have not been well publicized. The Missouri Bike Federation has put together a summary on the topic, and how it relates to the future of the Katy Trail.

To take action:
Express your concern to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Division of State Parks, 1-800-334-6946, (573) 751-2479
contact (at) dnr.mo.gov"> contact (at) dnr.mo.gov
See also:
http://www.mobikefed.org/2005/06/removal-of-mkt-bridge-at-boonville.php

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