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Our Opinion: Preserve tranquility of Katy Trail

February 23, 2016 at 12:00 p.m. | Updated January 1, 2021 at 12:00 a.m.

The legislative sponsor of a bill to allow ATVs on the Katy Trail said "we're not stepping on anyone's toes too much," but the president of a state bicycling and pedestrian group already is feeling the pinch.

In the interest of preserving some havens of tranquility, we align with the bikers and hikers who discourage the prospect of motorized vehicles on the Katy Trail, a former railroad line converted to a linear state park that stretches east to west across the Missouri.

On the spectrum of needed legislation, the proposal by state Rep. Jay Houghton, R-Martinsburg, hardly ranks as essential, but that traditionally has not served as a deterrent.

Houghton's bill would allow people 55 and older and people with disabilities to use motorized vehicles - ATVs and golf carts - on the Katy Trail on the first and third Wednesday of each month. He says the off-road vehicles would be limited to a speed of 15 miles per hour.

Although the Department of Revenue prohibits motorized vehicles on the trail, it permits electric-powered wheelchairs and scooters and tricycles, which may travel on the trail at speeds up to 20 miles per hour.

Houghton's proposal has gathered some legislative support. State Rep. Lyle Rowland, R-Cedarcreek, questioned whether a double standard exists for cyclists who demand motorists share roadways but are unwilling to share the trail with motorized vehicles.

An op-ed opposing the legislation has been circulated by Rachel Ruhlen, president of the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation.

She wrote: "The Katy Trail is a Missouri treasure. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people walk or bicycle on the Katy Trail. They come from down the street, they come from all over Missouri, all over the nation, even all over the world. They like to walk and bicycle on the Katy Trail because they don't have to worry about traffic."

We agree.

Like most advocates, however, she then piles on a litany of objections, including potential costs to reconstruct the trail, loss of tourism dollars and legal implications.

Maybe.

Suffice it to say the opposition had us at loss of tranquility.

The nationwide rails-to-trails conversion program that served as the foundation for the Katy Trail project was intended to provide a venue for walkers and bicyclists, not off-roading by motorized vehicles.

This proposal would take us in the wrong direction, and we urge lawmakers to reject it.

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