Small towns across Missouri standing beside the long-disused Rock Island Railroad right of way are hoping a brighter future is coming down the corridor. Public meetings to be held later this month in Owensville, Versailles and Meta could have a major bearing on that future.
The project that would convert the rail to a hiking/biking trail through a dozen small communities that were once thriving railroad towns hinges on whether Missouri State Parks will accept the gift of the old Rock Island Line from Ameren Electric. A decision to do so would clear the way for a recreational trail that advocates predict will bring thousands of tourists through towns seeking to rebuild the revenue and jobs that left when the trains stopped running three decades ago.
Public meetings in three Rock Island communities will give those who support plans to develop 144 miles of recreational corridor across the state to tell State Park officials to accept the right of way and get the ball rolling.
Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc. Executive Director Greg Harris says everyone who supports the trail and wants Missouri State Parks to accept the corridor should turn out and make their voices heard. “This is a critical juncture for the old Rock Island towns. State Parks must accept the corridor for them to reap the benefits of new jobs and revenue brought to town by outdoor enthusiasts, bicyclists and tourists,” Harris said.
-Owensville, Monday, October 29, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. Scenic Regional Library, 503 S. Olive St.
-Versailles, Tuesday, October 30, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. Morgan County Library, 600 N. Hunter St.
-Meta, Thursday, November 1, 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. Citizens Civic League Hall, 301 Olive St.
In an update from Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. on Oct. 3, the group wrote, "The Rock Island Trail will improve citizens’ health, quality of life and property values, and make communities more attractive to new residents and to industry. It will provide a safe, non-motorized alternative to an estimated 90 miles of highways between towns. Examples include the 56 miles along Highway 52 from Windsor to Eldon and 34 miles along highways 28 and 50 from Belle to Beaufort. Horses and buggies may be allowed on the trail in the Versailles area where Groffdale Conference Mennonites now share the two-lane Highway 52 with motorists."
Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.