Rock Island Trail State Park
Beyond Windsor, Missouri lies 144 miles of railroad bed, 23 communities and a new chapter in Missouri State Parks. The legacy of the Katy Trail continues with a new rail-trail on the doorstep of Lake of the Ozarks, spanning scenic Missouri rivers and burrowing through three historic tunnels.
Communities are looking forward to new visitors and investment, access to outdoor recreation and new appreciation of their history.
Together, we can continue to make this vision a reality. Join our supporters and make your contribution.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Rock Island Corridor? The Rock Island Corridor is a 144.3 mile section of the former Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad that runs from Windsor, Mo., to Beaufort, Mo.
Who is the current owner of the corridor? The Missouri Central Railroad Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ameren Missouri transferred the property to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for development into a recreational trail in December 2021. Once transferred the corridor became managed by Missouri State Parks, a division of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
What is the current status of the corridor? In 2014, Missouri Central Railroad began the process to abandon the line in two segments: (1) between mileposts 263.5 and 262.906 near Pleasant Hill, in Cass County, Mo.; (2) and between milepost 215.325 near Windsor, in Pettis County, Mo., and milepost 71.6 near Beaufort, in Franklin County, Mo. Missouri Central Railroad has completed salvage of the rails and ties along the corridor. On Dec. 17, 2019, the department signed an Interim Trail Use Agreement, paving the way for the transfer of the corridor to the department for development into a recreational trail. The property was transferred to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in December 2021. On June 30, 2023 the Division of Missouri State Parks estabilished the corridor as Rock Island Trail State Park. Only the Pleasant Hill to Windsor section is open for public use at this time. This section includes the trailheads at Pleasant Hill, Medford, Chilhowee, Leeton and Windsor. Public use of the undeveloped section is prohibited.
How could the corridor be transferred to Missouri State Parks for the purpose of making it into a trail? The National Trails System Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1247(d) and 49 C.F.R. § 1152.29, established a process known as “railbanking.” Railbanking is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service corridor as a trail until a railroad might need the corridor again for rail service. Because a railbanked corridor is not considered abandoned, it can be sold, leased or donated to a trail manager. In response to a request submitted by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, with concurrence from Missouri Central Railroad, the Surface Transportation Board, a federal adjudicatory board responsible for economic regulatory oversight of railroads, issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use Feb. 25, 2015. The Notice of Interim Trail Use authorized the department to negotiate with Missouri Central Railroad for acquisition of the right-of-way for use as a trail under the National Trails System Act. Per 49 CFR Section 1152.29, any interim trail use agreement must include provisions requiring the sponsor to fulfill the following responsibilities: (i) Managing the right-of-way; (ii) Any legal liability arising out of the transfer or use of the right-of-way (unless the user is immune from liability, in which case it need only indemnify the railroad against any potential liability); and (iii) The payment of any and all taxes that may be levied or assessed against the right-of-way. The department and Missouri Central Railroad signed an Interim Trail Use Agreement, ensuring the preservation of the former railroad corridor for future transportation use and paving the way for the donation of the property to the department for recreational trail use; which occured in December 2021. The signing of the Interim Trail Use Agreement took place during a special outdoor event held at 2:00 pm. Dec. 17, 2019 Representatives from the Missouri Central Railroad Company, Ameren Missouri, and the Missouri State Parks Foundation and other state and local officials participated in the event. A media availability session was held immediately after the event, during which department and Ameren representatives were on hand to answer questions and provide one-on-one interviews.
What happened after the department signed the Interim Trail Use Agreement? The Missouri State Parks Foundation was able to raise enough funds for the department to accept the Rock Island Corridor and the ownership was transferred to the State in December 2021. The MSPF has continued raising funds for the development of the trail and on June 30, 2023, State Parks announced the Rock Island Trail as Missouri's 93rd State Park. The Foundation will continue to raise funds for the devleopment of all 1
How much will it cost to build the 144 miles of trail? Signing of the agreement does not imply that a fully developed trail is certain. The agreement requires approximately $9.8 million to be raised before the property will be transferred to the department for recreational trail development, to help cover the initial security and management costs. The $9.8 million figure is based on estimated costs for fencing, signage, security barriers, labor and equipment; as well as projected annual ongoing costs for maintenance and staffing; and contingency for unforeseen liability and structural considerations for bridges and tunnels. In the interim, the corridor remains Missouri Central Railroad’s property and is not open for public use. An estimated total of $65 million to $85 million will ultimately be needed to fully develop the trail. The project’s funding will likely require a combination of private, public and corporate sources. Interested donors should contact the Missouri State Parks Foundation to learn more about partnering in this effort.
Could Missouri State Parks build the trail in section over the years, similar to the Katy Trail? Yes. It would not be possible todevelop the trail all at once. Development of the trail would occur in sections over several years, as each section of the corridor has different features and challenges. The Katy Trail would not have been possible without the generosity of Ted and Pat Jones and partnerships like this will be important for our future. As with the development of the Katy Trail, Rock Island will require additional partnerships and commitments
Where will the money come from to build the trail? Missouri State Parks has not yet identified the resources necessary to build the trail. The funding needs of this project will certainly require additional parties (private, public, corporate) to make a substantial financial commitment. Leading the fundraising effort will be the Missouri State Parks Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to support Missouri’s state park system. The project’s funding will likely require a combination of private, public and corporate sources.
I’m interested in making a donation. How do I get started? You can assist with the acquisition and development of the Rock Island Trail by making a donation to the Missouri State Parks Foundation. Donate online or mail your check to: Missouri State Parks Foundation PO Box 1002 Columbia, MO 65205-1002
How would Missouri State Parks address fencing needs for private property along the trail? The Missouri Division of State Parks is working cooperatively with adjacent landowners along the corridor. Missouri State Parks will provide fencing materials, along with any needed installation and maintenance to adjacent landowners upon request.
Why did Missouri State Parks take so much time to make a decision regarding the corridor? The conversion of the corridor into a trail stands to be a significant project, and it was essential to gain a further understanding of the costs, liabilities, and benefits of this potential project. Additionally, as has been the experience with the Katy Trail, the development of a trail and its ongoing operation and maintenance is a large responsibility that requires significant financial resources. The project may require additional funding sources that have yet to be identified. In the time since the NITU was issued, Missouri State Parks obtained a right of entry to the corridor and evaluated the condition and potential costs involved in developing a trail.
I farm on both sides of the tracks. How do I get my livestock and farm equipment across the trail? Missouri State Parks has entered into agreements with adjacent landowners to accommodate these types of requests along the Katy Trail and would work with landowners along the Rock Island corridor as well, should the corridor be transferred to the department and established as a trail.
Will private crossings still exist? Yes. Missouri State Parks will honor any existing real estate agreements between landowners and Missouri Central Railroad. If the corridor is transferred to the department, Missouri State Parks will work with landowners to develop new agreements to allow crossings, access, and occupations of the corridor where needed upon request.
What if someone comes onto my property? Missouri State Parks takes the concerns of adjacent landowners seriously, especially with respect to the potential for intrusion onto private property. If the corridor is transferred to the department, as has been the practice on the Katy Trail, it is the intent of Missouri State Parks to work cooperatively with adjacent landowners along the corridor. Missouri statutes provide protections to landowners adjacent to recreational trails. In addition to statutory protections, Missouri State Parks has worked cooperatively with landowners adjacent to Katy Trail State Park to help minimize the likelihood for trespass from the trail onto adjoining property. This was accomplished primarily by marking the boundaries of state park property with signs placed at regular intervals, which also warn trail users not to trespass. This message is also provided via signage and brochures at all trailhead information depots. If the corridor is developed, Missouri State Parks would develop similar measures for the Rock Island Corridor as well. INTERIM TRAIL USE AGREEMENT (ITUA) BASICS: Signing this ITUA, pursuing dedicated fund legislation, and conducting due diligence activities were the first, necessary steps for the department to move forward with potential acceptance of the corridor. Transfer of the property and any trail development cannot occur until adequate funding becomes available. The ITUA provides more than two years (until December 31, 2021) for individuals and organizations to raise funds toward a goal of $9.8M. The agreement provides that if the designated amount is raised, and environmental assessments do not show any issues that would inhibit development of this resource into a biking and hiking state park, then the department could accept the property on or before December 31, 2021. Legislation was enacted in 2019 to establish a dedicated "Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund" to ensure all funds received or otherwise allocated to the Rock Island State Park effort are used in support of this purpose and not spent for any other reasons. (Section 253.177, RSMo). Missouri State Parks and the Missouri Central Railroad look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders with the dual goals of preserving this valuable transportation corridor and development of this extraordinary outdoor recreation and economic development opportunity for the state.