The next step toward the proposed Missouri Rock Island Trail is community engagement with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, whose Missouri State Parks division will hold a series of open-house events this month.
The meetings in Owensville, Versailles and Meta will take place 5:30-7:30 p.m. over a three-day period.
"We hope people who are interested in the trail will attend," said Greg Harris, executive director of Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc.
The proposed recreational walking, biking and horseback riding trail, which would convert the former Rock Island Railroad corridor for trail use, is expected to bring tourism to Missouri. MoRIT, a supporting group that is heavily involved in the trail's development, announced in September $600,000 in pledges from organizations, municipalities and individuals were given to the group pending the acceptance of the trail gift from DNR.
DNR has until Feb. 21, 2019, to decide whether to accept the 144-mile abandoned stretch of railroad from Ameren. If accepted, the trail would become a state park and require maintenance from the State Parks division.
"If Missouri State Parks, after evaluation further, declines to accept the gift, we will be looking at a different trail manager," Harris said.
MoRIT's main focus will continue to be on forward movement for development of the trail, he said.
Scenic Regional Library at 503 S. Olive St. in Owensville will host an Oct. 29 meeting.
A meeting at the Morgan County Library will follow Oct. 30 at 600 N. Hunter St. in Versailles.
The Citizens's Civic League Hall at 301 Olive St. in Meta will host the Nov. 1 meeting.
The meetings will include information about the potential costs of developments and operations, public safety, natural resource issues and more. The meetings are open to the public, and members of surrounding communities are encouraged to attend.
Missouri State Parks officials were unavailable for comment Friday.
Anyone requiring special services or accommodations to attend the meetings can make arrangements by calling 800-334-6946.
This article was edited at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 22, 2018, to correct in the headline that the Department of Natural Resources is hosting the meetings.