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Katy Trail Celebrates 33 Years

And a new bridge at the Pleasant Hill Trailhead

MSPF Executive Director Tyler Rieke and MSPF Board Member Axie Hindman attended the celebration on April 29, 2023.

Last Saturday, April 29th, I had the opportunity to attend a ceremony at the Pleasant Hill Trailhead of the Rock Island Spur of the Katy Trail State Park. I was able to join numerous supporters and volunteers for a fun event that included a tree planting and announcement ceremony. Missouri State Parks Foundation Board Member, Axie Hindman, a Katy Trail pioneer also came to the event (check out our photo above).

The day started early, with over 80 Edward Jones employees, volunteers, and guests planting 33 trees in celebration of the Katy Trail’s 33rd anniversary. The 33 Missouri native trees were brought across the state to the event by the Forrest Keeling Nursery. The final tree planted during the ceremony was a Burr Oak, a personal favorite of Ted Jones’.

After the trees were planted, the ceremony to announce and accept a generous donation from the Jones Trust began. This donation will be used to construct a new bicycle and pedestrian bridge near Pleasant Hill. Thanks to a trust created more than 30 years ago, a new bridge will be funded at the Pleasant Hill Trailhead on the Katy Trail. As the final gift of Ted Jones, this new bridge, upon final approval from Union Pacific Railroad, will span the current, active railroad tracks and provide direct access to the Katy Trail from the Pleasant Hill Trailhead, replacing the current required road detour.

Keep reading to learn more about the history of the Katy Trail, Ed and Pat Jones, and the Rock Island Spur. I hope you are able to enjoy the Katy Trail this season.

Tyler Rieke

Executive Director

Katy Trail State Park

Katy Trail State Park is built on the corridor of the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad, better known as the Katy. When the railroad ceased operation on its route in Missouri from Machens in St. Charles County to Sedalia in Pettis County in 1986, Missouri State Parks was able to acquire the railroad right-of-way through an amendment to the National Trails System Act. The amendment allows railroad corridors no longer needed for active rail service to be banked for future transportation needs and used in the interim as recreational trails. The right-of-way was secured through a generous donation by the late Edward D. “Ted” Jones Jr. and his wife, Pat. Construction of the Katy Trail began in 1987. The first section of trail at Rocheport was opened in 1990.

In 1991, the Union Pacific Railroad donated 33 miles of rail corridor from Sedalia to east of Clinton. Additional purchases and donations were added throughout the years, completing the final 240-mile trail connecting Missouri east to west.

The trail allows users to travel through some of the most scenic areas of the state. The majority of the Katy Trail closely follows the route of the Missouri River so trail users often find themselves with the river on one side and towering bluffs on the other. The trail travels through many types of landscapes including dense forests, wetlands, deep valleys, remnant prairies, open pastureland and gently rolling farm fields.

Ted and Pat Jones

As the son of the founder of Edward Jones, Edward D. “Ted” Jones Jr. spearheaded the St. Louis-based financial services firm’s expansion from the 1950s through the 1980s by opening one-broker offices serving investors in small communities. All the while, Ted maintained his lifelong love of nature, living in rural Callaway County, Mo., with his wife, Pat.

Ted became interested in “rails-to-trails” projects after a bike ride on a converted Wisconsin railroad trail, and he began lobbying the Missouri legislature to use land abandoned by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad (known as the Katy) for a similar project. He and Pat donated $2.2 million to help purchase the rail corridor and turn it into the longest continuous hiking and bicycling trail in the country.

Ted and Pat were able to celebrate the results of their work when the Katy Trail State Park opened on April 28, 1990. Their proud moment came just six months before Ted passed away.

The Rock Island Spur

The Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park is a 47.5-mile trail that stretches through the heart of west-central Missouri. The trail provides an adventure for bicyclists, hikers and equestrian users who are seeking an avenue to enjoy nature, explore a part of rural Missouri history and have an enjoyable recreational opportunity.

The trail is built on the former corridor of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad (commonly called the Rock Island line). The trail takes users between Windsor and Pleasant Hill, with additional trailheads at Leeton, Chilhowee and Medford along the way.

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