Efforts to create a proposed Rock Island Trail State Park took another step forward Wednesday when Gov. Mike Parson signed SB 196, allowing individuals and organizations to donate to an endowment fund for the trail.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, was created to help Missouri Department of Natural Resources award grants to preserve, protect or restore historic courthouses and allow donations for the 144-mile Rock Island rail corridor, which would be maintained by DNR's Missouri State Parks division.
Bernskoetter said in a media release this is an opportunity to have a "world class trail system" in the state.
"With the signing of SB 196, the Rock Island Trail project can start to receive the resources it needs to move toward completion," Bernskoetter said. "When all is said and done, I believe this will be an exciting opportunity for both Missourians and visitors to our state to enjoy the great outdoors and help invigorate local economies through tourism."
The corridor is owned by Ameren, which is interested in donating it to DNR for trail use. The organization has until Aug. 20 to accept the segment which could bring development to areas such as Eldon, Freeburg and Versailles, proponents say.
Greg Harris, executive director of Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc., a coalition of businesses, organizations and citizens supporting the project, attended the bill signing with other members.
He said he was excited about the passage and said it is a sign of state parks accepting the donation, but there is still work to be done.
After speaking with Deputy Director Mike Sutherland about progress, Harris said he was told state parks and Ameren are working diligently, and the bill is an important step.
If the donation is not accepted, Harris said, a new trail sponsor would be needed.
State parks officials were not immediately available for comment.
The bill goes into effect Aug. 28.