Imagine a statewide trails system crisscrossing Kansas’ rolling prairies, farmlands and forested hills. Picture a network of trails connecting Kansas communities, generating economic activity and bolstering property values. That is why the ultimate goal is to establish an interconnected network of rail-to-trails for the enjoyment, health and economic wellbeing of the residents of the Sunflower State.

In 2013, the Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy collaborated with the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism, KDOT’s Office of Freight and Rail, the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy, and the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program of the National Park Service, with assistance from numerous other agencies, organizations, and individuals, to create a statewide rails-to-trails plan.

The plan will guide efforts to build a statewide interconnected trail system in Kansas.

View the full plan here (PDF).

Executive Summary

Public and private partners have come together to develop a statewide rail-to-trails plan for Kansas. The purpose of this plan is to review existing rail-to-trails, to identify the benefits of rail-to-trails, and to provide information on how local trail supporters can develop trails in their own communities.

Railroad tracks linked the earliest communities as Kansas was settled. These same corridors are now becoming trail links that continue providing economic and health opportunities for local residents. Railbanking also preserves the land corridors if railroads are needed in the future.

The plan supports development of a comprehensive trails system across Kansas that creates economic and health benefits for the state’s residents. When completed, it will be a supporting document for the future statewide trail plan, scenic byways, and community trails plans.

The first goal of this plan is to make rail-to-trails the core of a state-wide trail system. Potential rail-to-trails that can create the links in communities and to recreationally related tourism opportunities are identified. The second goal is to leverage multiple sources of funding to pay for trail development.

The third goal is to use trails to increase tourism opportunities. Thanks to the beautiful wide-open spaces of Kansas, outdoor based tourism is an economic asset for the state. Trails can link communities to parks and greenspaces attracting more visitors to come more often, stay longer and increase the opportunities for them to spend more money in a community.

The last goal is to assist communities to successfully develop and maintain rail-to-trails. There are so many trail opportunities across the state a small group of private citizens or the state government cannot develop and maintain all the trails. Local ownership and management of a trail makes it a community asset. Local supporters can develop the trail fitting with the history or unique theme of the community.

This plan is not an end product of rail-to-trails development, but rather a tool for all future trail development opportunities. Use the information in the plan to further support trail development in local communities as they link the state together through trails.