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Legislators, outdoor enthusiasts ride Katy Trail to drum up support for Rock Island Trail

Legislators, outdoor enthusiasts ride Katy Trail to drum up support for Rock Island Trail

April 24th, 2019 by Danisha Hogue in News

Deputy State Parks Director Mike Sutherland, center, and other attendees of the 2019 Missouri Legislators Bike Ride, ride their bikes Tuesday near the Missouri state Capitol and head to the North Jefferson Katy Trail. The ride is a partnership with Missouri State Parks, MODOT and Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation and covered a total of 6 miles.

Photo by Mark Wilson /News Tribune.

State Sen. Gina Walsh had one comment for a group gathered at the Carnahan Memorial Garden: "Let's ride."

Community members and members of several outdoor groups participated Tuesday in the 13th annual Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Day at the Missouri Capitol.

The event was sponsored by the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation, Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Parks division and Missouri Department of Transportation.

Legislators and supporters departed the governor's garden and headed out for a 6-mile round trip to the North Jefferson Trailhead stop on the Katy Trail.

People were urged to contact their legislators to express support for bills regarding the proposed Rock Island Trail. Other issues including distracted driving, safe walking and bicycling routes, and state transportation funding were also advocated.

The 144-mile former Rock Island Railroad corridor is proposed for trail use. If accepted, the trail would become a state park and require maintenance from Missouri State Parks.

MBPF Executive Director Brent Hugh said House Bill 1044 is making good progress.

State Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, introduced the bill to create the Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund. An identical bill, SB473, was introduced by state Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City.

The Senate's Conservation and Natural Resources committee has recommended the full Senate debate and pass the bill. As of Tuesday, no debate has been scheduled.

Wood said in his weekly column that the proposed Rock Island Trail fund has been attached to another House bill and he plans to attach it to a couple of Senate bills to improve its chances of passing this session.

"This is going to be an international tourism destination," High said. "It's going to be one of the largest trail systems in the world, the Katy and the Rock Island together."

Lolle Boettcher, secretary for Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc., said businesses are popping up in Owensville and other rural communities along the corridor in anticipation of the trail. MoRIT is a supporting group for the trail's development.

"As a city dweller who grew up in University City and now one who married a Hereford cattle farmer I've seen the beauty and the glory of the rural areas and how hard the farming community works to put food on our table," Boettcher said.

Jefferson City resident Erin Skornia said her family has owned a farm in Owensville for more than 100 years. Her parents, soybean and wildflower farmers, hope the trail is developed.

"Our No. 1 revenue of the state is farming," Skornia said. "So it would be a great showcase to show visitors of our state what we do while on the trail. Our second-largest revenue is tourism. I think it would be a really great thing to add to what we have in our state and bring more people here to enjoy it."