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story.lead_photo.caption The 144-mile Rock Island Trail would stretch from Windsor to Beaufort.

Individuals and organizations could soon be able to donate to the Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund.

The Missouri Senate passed SB 196 Thursday, sending it to the governor's desk for his signature.

State Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, sponsored the bill that would authorize the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to award grants to preserve, protect or restore historic courthouses.

The bill also would create the Rock Island Trail fund, which would allow DNR to maintain, develop and secure the 144-mile Rock Island rail corridor.

"The budget is not in the place where we can buy all these trails and spend money fixing these trails," Bernskoetter said. "If anybody is going to do the Rock Island Trail, I think it should be the state," he said.

Ameren, the corridor's current owner, is seeking to donate it to DNR for trail use. DNR has until Aug. 20 to accept the donation. If accepted, the trail would require management from DNR's Missouri State Parks division.

Greg Harris, executive director ofMissouri Rock Island Trail Inc., a coalition of businesses, organizations and citizens supporting the project, said the fund is a step in the right direction.

"It's a very clear signal," Harris said. "This private/public partnership will pay enormous dividends to communities as the new infrastructure makes them better places to live, work and play."

The endowment fund would go into effect Aug. 28.

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