Kansas Trails News – 2016

November 2016

Grant Awarded for Coldwater Trail

The Dodge City-based Community Foundation of Southwest Kansas and Short Grass Prairie Division of Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy have announced that the Foundation has awarded the Short Grass Prairie Trail (SGPT) a $3,900 grant to assist in the construction of a one-mile section of the Short Grass Prairie Trail between Coldwater and Lake Coldwater. The trail segment will enable trail users to travel safely to the lake. The project will primarily involve installing a crushed limestone surface suitable for bicyclists, walkers and wheelchair users.

Currently there is no safe route for children and teens to access Lake Coldwater which has become a very popular recreational facility. Also, Southwest Kansas is currently under-served in terms of public recreational trails and this will help alleviate this shortage. The division has raised $16,000 to date for the $32,000 project and is hopeful that the remaining funds will be found in early 2017.

It is expected that once this section is complete and a success, demand will increase to complete the whole rail-trail which stretches 78 miles between Coats and Protection. The Short Grass Prairie Trail will then become a destination place for residents of Southwest Kansas. Approximately, 5,000 trail user visits are projected for this trail segment annually.

Rotary Club Builds Council Grove Trail Segment

The Council Grove Rotary Club has built a 10-foot-wide concrete path on the railroad rock ballast surface of the Flint Hill Nature Trail from the Neosho River Bridge approximately 900 feet east to Third Street. Plus, the Council Grove Riverwalk has been extended south from the Kaw Indian Mission State Historic Site to the Flint Hills Nature Trail. So, now trail users can park at the mission and readily access the Flint Hills Trail by foot or bike. Current plans by KDWPT are to upgrade in 2017 the trail going east from Council Grove to the Kaw Heritage Park and beyond if funding is available. The park has a network of foot trails and free campsites. The section crosses scenic Rock Creek and cuts through tallgrass prairie-covered hills of the Flint Hills.

Rock Island Trail to Open in December

The 47.5-mile Windsor to Pleasant Hill section of the Rock Island Trail in Missouri is scheduled to open in December. This will allow Katy Trail users to travel virtually to Kansas City metro area. According to the Rails-to-Trails Magazine (Fall, 2016): “Further west along the Rock Island line, Jackson County recently purchased from Union Pacific 17.7 miles of line, stretching from Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, to Lee’s Summit. The county expects to complete trail construction on this portion by spring of 2018. A seven-mile gap will remain between Lee’s Summit and Pleasant Hill; Missouri State Parks, and the city of Pleasant Hill and Jackson County have vowed to complete that trail section.”

Lawrence Trail Segment Opens

A two-mile section of the South Lawrence Trafficway Hike and Bike Path stretching from Iowa St. to Haskell Avenue opened November 9. The 10-foot-wide path connects with the existing 11-mile-long path on the west side of Iowa Street. The path traverses the northern boundary of the remaining portion of the Baker Wetlands National Natural Landmark. Between Louisiana St. and Haskell Ave. a noise barrier wall reduces traffic noise for trail users, though the concrete wall is somewhat of an eyesore. This segment forms a portion of the 22-mile trail loop which will encircle the city.

Update on Flint Hills Nature Trail

Rapid progress is being made by contractors working on Phase 1C of the Flint Hills Nature Trail which encompasses Pomona town West for four miles to Quenemo and east from 7th Street in Ottawa for three miles to Nevada Terrace. Six bridges are being built in the former section and one in the latter section. These sections should be open by spring. KDWPT representative Trent McCown reports that preliminary engineering work for Phase 2 is underway to upgrade the trail west of Quenemo and east of Council Grove. Field checks are currently underway by KDOT and KDWPT engineers and bids could be let as early as the end of the year. Step by step we’re seeing the development of an outstanding recreational trail which will serve as the backbone of a 215-mile interconnected trail network. Few regions in the country can boast of such an extensive trail system.

Redbud Trail Making Progress

Byron Rupp with the Andover-Augusta Trail Initiative reports that the organization has just entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Andover to allow it to develop the Redbud Trail from just east of Andover to US 400, a distance of about four miles. AATI has the funds to develop the trail segment and hopes to have it completed by spring 2017.

Railroad Backs out of Railbanking Rail Corridors in NW Kansas

The Nebraska Colorado and Kansas Railway (owned by OmniTrax, Inc. based in Denver, CO) has refused to complete the railbanking of three out-of-service rail lines in Northwest Kansas. The railroad initially agreed last year to railbank the lines and thus the Surface Tranportation Board issued the Notice of Interim Trail Use. The NKCR also agreed in April to a 180-day extension for the negotiations to enter into the Interim Trail Use Agreement, but now it has notified the STB that it doesn’t want to consummate the railbanking. The three lines are Oberlin-Reager (30.8 miles); Almena to Orleans, NE (14.5 miles); and the Norton Spur (1 mile).

This is a big disappointment for trail advocates as once a rail line becomes completely abandoned, it is lost forever. Losing 46 miles of rail corridors is a significant loss, especially since Northwest Kansas doesn’t have any rail-trails or rail-trail projects. Further, Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy spent over $3,200 in filing and legal fees in the railbanking effort.

It’s possible that the Kansas Farm Bureau, which publicly opposed the trail, was able to exert political pressure on the railroad. This has happened at least twice in Kansas.

Trail advocates in Oberlin and Norton may still be able to buy back short sections of the rail corridors from adjacent landowners once the land reverts. Trail advocates in Oberlin would like to build a 1.6-mile trail from the center of town to Sappa Park and Norton residents would like to use the Norton Spur and connect it to a proposed trail to Prairie Dog State Park (for a total of 4.3 miles).

Judge Rules in Favor of Meadowlark Trail

A McPherson district court judge has ruled that landowners along the 13-mile Meadowlark Trail can no longer block the completion of the trail which stretches between Lindsborg and McPherson.

In a nine-page opinion, district court judge Marilyn Wilder ruled that the Kansas Recreational Trails Act provision requiring that a railbanked rail-trail be developed within two years does not apply to Central Kansas Conservancy because negotiations for railbanking the out-of-service rail line had begun before the law was enacted.

According to an article in the McPherson Sentinel (9-21-16) the judge also ruled that “because federal law does not specify a time limit, no time limit exists for the Meadowlark Trail”. There is one outstanding issue which has yet to be ruled upon and that is trail crossing licenses for landowners who farm both sides of the trail. It is likely the judge will also rule in favor of Central Kansas Conservancy on this issue.



September 2016

Ottawa-Pomona Trail Segment Opens

The Ottawa to Pomona segment of the Flint Hills Nature Trail is now open for trail users. The 10.8-mile section was built by contractors for Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism using federal Transportation Alternative funds. A short stretch of marked gravel road (3.3 miles) has to be used between Louisiana Terrace and Iowa Road to make use of an existing rail crossing.

The trail crosses the rebuilt Marais Des Cygnes River steel truss railroad bridge in Ottawa which will be turned into a signature bridge (with a swan theme) and become a destination for many visitors. Access points include Willow Street, the sports complex and the west road of the cemetery in Northwest Ottawa. Because of the detour some trail users park at Iowa Rd. and ride west to Pomona.

The Pomona trailhead is on the very southern edge of the town on Colorado Road. Continuing south on Colorado Road for 1.5 miles and west on Labette Terrace for 800 feet is the historic Jesse James Cave (open to the public). The recreational path also passes near the wooded Chippewa Hills which lie three miles south on Idaho Road. The new trail segment is a major milestone in the development of the 117-mile rail-trail which will be the longest trail in the Sunflower State.

New Baker Wetlands Trail

A crushed limestone path stretching 1.5 miles through the Baker Wetlands has opened in South Lawrence. The treadway surface is suitable for road bicycles and walkers. The path begins at the Baker Wetlands Discovery Center and goes east to Haskell Avenue. The path traverses the old Baker Wetlands and a connecting path links it to the SLT Hike and Bike Path at Louisiana Street. KDOT built the path as well as the discovery center as part of the mitigation for taking wetlands for the South Lawrence Trafficway. The original 50 acres of virgin wetland prairie is still in existence but it is unclear if the whole Baker Wetlands lost its National Natural Landmark status when wetlands were destroyed to make way for the highway.

Oregon Trail Riverfront Park Proposed for North Topeka

The National Park Service is assisting with the design of a proposed 13-acre park which would be located along the Kaw River in North Topeka at the site of a landing where a ferry was operated by two Frenchmen: brothers Etienne and Louis Pappan. Thousands of Oregon Trail travelers crossed the river using their ferry.

The goal of park planners is to develop it into an historic tourism site much like the Alcove Spring Park south of Marysville. Except for one parcel, the land has already been acquired by the City of Topeka (Source: Topeka Capital Journal, 8-21-16). Another branch of the historic trail called the Union Ferry Route crosses the Landon Nature Trail at SE 40th St. in South Topeka and heads to Willard where there was another ferry.

Western Sky Trail Project Update

A group called Cultivate Fredonia has recently expressed an interest in developing part of the Western Sky Trail which stretches 19 miles between Fredonia and Chanute. The organization was instrumental in developing a network of trails in a city park. Approximately $15,000 is available for trail development. However, first a volunteer must come forward to be the Project Coordinator who will marshal resources and organize volunteers. Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy railbanked this out-of-service rail line.

Great Plains Trail Update

greatplainstrailThere is now a map of the Great Plains Trail which stretches from Canada to the New Mexico-Texas border. This trail uses existing trails and roads.

See: https://greatplainstrail.wordpress.com/

Great Osage Trail Project

Interest is building to develop the 9-mile Great Osage Trail which will stretch from Wellington to Oxford. A local banker has expressed interest in helping out with this project. Osage Indian Chief Black Dog established a trail from present-day Columbus to present-day Oxford to enable the tribe to travel to buffalo hunting grounds west of Oxford.

The Southern Kansas & Western Railroad built the rail line between the two towns in 1879. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway took over the line in 1899. The last railroad to own the line, South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad, let the rail line go out of service in 1997 and the rail corridor was subsequently conserved/railbanked under the National Trails System Act. Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy assumed railbanking custodianship in 2010. Seven miles west of Wellington lies the route of the historic 1867 Chisholm Trail which had its terminus in the famous cattle town of Abilene. Just north of Oxford is the 1874 Old Oxford Mill which used the Arkansas River to power the mill.



May 2016

Three Rail Corridors Railbanked in Northwest Kansas

Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy has nearly finished conserving/railbanking three out-of-service rail lines in Northwest Kansas:

  • The Stagecoach Trail stretches 31 miles between Oberlin and Sebelius Lake.
  • The 12-mile Prairie Sunrise Trail links Almena with the Nebraska state line.
  • The 3.5-mile Prairie Dog Trail will utilize a one-mile railroad spur in Norton and then will use a rails-with-trails path along an active rail line to Prairie Dog State Park at Sebelius Lake.

These will be the first rail-trails in Northwest Kansas, an area noted for wide-open spaces and few people. The communities of Norton and Oberlin are already excited about the trails and possible trail project coordinators have already stepped forward. They will marshal resources, recruit and direct volunteers, oversee trail construction and help land grants. The people in Oberlin want to build the trail 1.4 miles from the city park out to popular 480-acre Sappa Park so that bicyclists, joggers, walkers have a safe way to reach the park. The Soles on the Sappa Running Club has expressed an interest in ensuring this trail segment is developed. A grant application to fund development of the Oberlin segment and in-town Norton section is being prepared by WSU PhD candidate Lucas Cylke and will be submitted to regional foundations.

2,800-mile England Coast Path to Open in Four Years

Britain’s National Trails website states: “The England Coast Path will be a new National Trail all around England’s coast. It’s opening in sections and will be complete in 2020. When it is complete it will be one of the longest coastal walking routes in the world. The England Coast Path is happening because of a completely new right of access that gives everyone the legal right to explore our coast for the very first time. It is much more than just a path, it gives access to beaches, cliff-tops, and most of the wonderful habitats around our coast.”

Iola’s Lehigh Portland Trails Grand Opening June 25

Randy Rasa provides this update on the Lehigh Portland Trails in south Iola: “Volunteers have been putting in tremendous effort and time, with amazing help from the local community. The last week or two has been filled with bridge work — bridge railing repairs, dirt moving, driving abutment pilings, pouring concrete. Next step is sand-blasting and painting the Hegwald Bridge (within the next week or two), then moving and setting the bridge onto its new home (early May). On the rail-trail itself, surface prep work continues, hoping to get the final limestone screenings down on most of the trail soon. We’re continuing to see lots of local people checking out the trails for the first time, as well as folks from the surrounding region visiting the trails on a regular basis to walk, run, or ride the mountain bike trails.” David Toland with Thrive Allen County reports that his organization was able to obtain easements to extend the Lehigh Portland Rail Trail west to the Southwind Rail Trail using a 0.4-mile connector trail. The total length of crushed limestone trails will be 2.25 miles and 5.5 miles for single-track trails. June 25th has been targeted for the tentative Grand Opening ceremony! Be sure to attend if you can!”

Prairie Sunset Trail Extension Dedication May 14

A ribbon cutting for the Prairie Sunset Trail extension will be held on May 14th at 1:00 p.m. at the Goddard Trailhead. According to Ruth Holliday with Prairie Travelers, the extension runs from 167th St. west of Wichita into the city proper to Hoover for a total of seven additional miles, making the trail 15 miles in length. It will hopefully connect to the City’s bike paths and link it to the Redbud Trail which will take trail users to Butler County where activists we are working on the trail from Andover to Kellogg (Hwy 54) and hopefully to Augusta down the road.”

Redbud Trail Plans Update

Ruth Holiday with Prairie Travelers reports:

Redbud Trail – Goal is to have it from I-135 to Augusta for a total of 18 to 20 miles or so, depending on getting into Augusta because the bridge was removed over the Whitewater River.

Wichita’s Section will be done in phases:

  • Phase 1: I-135 to Woodlawn = 3 miles completed and paved
  • Phase 2: Woodlawn to K-96 = 3.5 miles to be done after Phase 3
  • Phase 3: K-96 to 159th St E (Butler County Line) = 2.5 miles to be next, to connect to the completed 2 miles in Andover and the K-96 bike path that heads north and circles going west and then south and connects to the start of the Red Bud Trail.

Butler County Section will also be in phases:

  • Phase 1: Butler County Line to 13th or also known as SW 80th = almost 2 miles completed and paved (1.7 million grant from the last of the federal TA funds) This was a City of Andover project!
  • Phase 2: Prairie Creek to Kellogg (Hwy 54) = Just shy of 4 miles to be done by AARTI with the blessing of the City of Andover that is taking over the NITU.
  • Phase 3: Kellogg (Hwy 54) to SW River Valley Rd (by the Whitewater River, at the Augusta edge of town) = Approximately 2.5 miles. This phase must wait until we prove to Butler County that the trail is well used and worth their effort, as well as waiting for KDOT to rebuild the bridge they committed to when they removed it over Kellogg for the highway widening this past year!

TA Grants to fund Rail-Trails

KDOT has approved federal Transportation Alternatives grants for several trail projects including two rail-trails. One grant provides $3 million for continued construction on the Flint Hills Nature Trail which stretches between Herington and Osawatomie. Construction is already underway on the trail section from Pomona town to K-68 north of Quenemo.

The other grant consisting of $721,570 will fund Phase II of Lindsborg’s Valkommen Trail (a rail-trail) in the northeast portion of the town. The new 1.25 section will begin near the Bethany College Campus, go under K-4 and then proceed to Emerald Lake where it will circle the lake. The local match of $278,813 may seem like a significant contribution from a small town but its sales tax is 9.5% which the many visitors to the town pay.

Meadowlark Trail Update

Michele Cullen with Central Kansas Conservancy reports the following: “We have been working for the past one and one-half years on a section of the Meadowlark Trail that starts in Lindsborg and heads south towards McPherson. This section is 2.75 miles, has four bridges and is very scenic. Three of the bridges have railings and are decked. One of these bridges is 105’ long and about 30 feet off the ground at the highest spot. Great views from this bridge. The last bridge to complete is a small culvert bridge about 10’ long. We are making this into a covered bridge. The weekend of April 9th the concrete footings were poured for this bridge and we will start construction on our next work day, May 14th. We have had a few large donations made to the Meadowlark Trail in the Lindsborg area and those donations are covering the cost of this project. In addition to those donations we had some local contractors volunteer equipment and time.

“We have other exciting news on the Meadowlark Trail. Ardie Streit who is our lead person on the McPherson end of the trail (five miles are complete) has teamed up with MCDS. The MCDS group has been out at least once a week with their clients working on the trail. They have repainted picnic benches for us and mowed at our main trail entrance all last summer. They also are looking at getting a grant which will give them funds to do some planting and projects like that along the trail.”

Drone may be used for Rails-With-Trails Project

A drone may be used to survey a proposed rails-with-trails route from Norton to Prairie Dog State Park. Since this is a three-mile route over rugged, open terrain, it will be much cheaper to use a drone to record geo-referenced digital images than having a survey team do the work by hand.

Update on Projects to Connect KC to Katy Trail

According to an article in the KC Star (5-01-16) Jackson County, Missouri took possession on May 2 of a rail line that will help connect Kansas City to the famous Katy Trail. A trail on this 17.7-mile section of the Rock Island Line in eastern KCMO is scheduled to open in the spring of 2018. The 47-mile Rock Island State Trail which connects to the KATY at Windsor will open this fall. This will leave a nine-mile gap between the two trails at Pleasant Hill.

North American Bison Designated as the National Mammal

The iconic North American Bison (commonly known as the buffalo) has been designated by Congress to be the national mammal, joining the American Bald Eagle which is the national emblem. The buffalo is also the Kansas state mammal. There are several herds of bison in the state including at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Konza Prairie and Big Basin State Preserve.

Bill in Missouri Legislature would allow ATVs on Katy Trail

A bill (HB 2047) moving through the Missouri Legislature would allow motorized gas-powered ATVs five feet in width with engines up to 700 ccs and golf carts to be driven on the famous Katy Trail in Missouri by anyone over 60 years of age on Wednesdays. People with disabilities can already drive electric carts or scooters. This would disturb the peace and quiet of other trail users and once allowed on one day of the week it could easily be extended to all days of the week. Allowing ATVs on rail-trails is a bad idea!