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story.lead_photo.caption A wire fence prevents access to the deconstructed Rock Island Line's right-of-way in Benton County. Photo by Allen Fennewald / News Tribune.

A Missouri Senate bill intended to create an endowment fund that would benefit the Rock Island Trail State Park has passed through the House with a few changes, and is returning to the Senate.

The Missouri House of Representatives passed Sen. Mike Bernskoetter's, R-Jefferson City, bill intending to allow the state Department of Natural Resources to create grants to restore, preserve and protect historic county courthouses. It would also be used to operate, maintain, develop and secure parts of the former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad corridor that is owned, leased or operated by the department.

The bill — which would create the Rock Island Trail Fund — is similar to House Bill 1044, sponsored by Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles. On Monday, Wood added some clarifying language to the bill through an amendment.

The bill will now go back to the Senate for approval.

Rep. Rachel Proudie, D-Ferguson, encouraged all the legislators to support the bill.

"This is something that my constituents would be very, very supportive of," Proudie said.

Peggy McGaugh, R-Carrollton, who carried the bill through the House, said the bill would diversify some of Missouri's state parks. She said the original bill was intended only to restore, preserve and protect historic county courthouses.

Critics said the expansion to include the Rock Island Trail may not follow state constitutional requirements.

"One of the things that I needed to add on my original bill was the grounds, because many, many of these historic courthouses also have statues of historic figures," she said. "And they also have bandstands and many other amenities that the general public appreciates."

Wood has said he would attach the Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund wording to whichever bills are appropriate.

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