Western Sky Trail Taking Off
Efforts are once again underway to build the Western Sky Trail 19 miles between Chanute and Fredonia. The out-of-service rail line was railbanked/conserved under the National Trails Act 12 years ago by SRTC. Now, two individuals have come forward to spearhead the project. Roger Compton of Fredonia is now spearheading the project to build the trail six miles from Fredonia to Benedict. He owns heavy equipment and recently retired from operating his steel fabrication shop.
Nancy Isaac of Chanute, recently retired from the Neosho County Community College, has public relations and grant-writing skills. Her trail project extends from Chanute 2.5 miles to Yale Road in Wilson County. They will work to build the trail from each end and meet in the middle–just like the Trans-continental Railroad builders did 150 years ago in Utah.
Update on Flint Hills Nature Trail Project
A new three-mile section of Flint Hills Trail stretching from from just east of Osage City at Indian Hills Rd. to Lewelling Rd. (2 miles west of US 75) opened this past June. This was a key section of the trail to improve since much of the existing treadway consisted of loose rock ballast fines. “Except for one short two-mile section from Lewelling Rd. to the US 75 bridge, and the section of the trail within the city limits of Osage City, the trail will essentially be complete from Osawatomie to Council Grove, a distance of about 90 miles,” said KRTC President Scott Allen.
The Kansas Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism nearly $5.6 million in federal Transportation Alternatives funds in February for building a bike-pedestrian bridge on the Flint Hills Trail over the busy BNSF Railroad double tracks west of Ottawa. Currently, there is a 3.5-mile detour on gravel roads. The funds will also be used to complete a total of 2.3 miles of the trail that remain undeveloped and which lead up to the bridge. This will involve installing crushed limestone and repairs and improvements to three other bridges and drainage structures. The project is likely to take at least three years to complete. “The bridge will eliminate the annoying detour on dusty roads thereby enhancing the experience of trail users for years to come. It’s great that KDWP and KDOT staff are dedicated to making this rail-trail one of the best state parks in the nation,” remarked President Allen.
Meadowlark Trail Nearing Completion
Only two miles are left to complete the 13-mile Meadowlark Trail which stretches between Lindsborg and McPherson. It is expected that the remaining section will be finished by the end of next year. A burned bridge will be replaced with an old rail flatcar strong enough to hold heavy equipment and it will also give a little railroad history to the rail-trail. Central Kansas Conservancy has persevered despite many roadblocks both literally and legally over the years.
Redbud Trail Update
The Augusta city council recently voted unanimously to pursue acquiring the railbanking custodianship from Butler County for the rail line from Augusta four miles to US 400. This will begin the process of completing the Redbud Trail which now stretches from the Andover to US 400. Bridges will have to be built over the Whitewater River and US 400. The Andover August Rail Trail Initiative, Inc.(AARTI) and Prairie Travelers are spearheading this project. Some day a cyclist will be able to ride 22 miles from Augusta all the way to central Wichita on the trail.
Landon Trail Sections to Open Soon
New sections of the Landon Trail will open soon. One goes 1.5 miles from SE 197th south 1.75 miles to Stubbs Rd. at Michigan Valley. It is expected it will open by Thanksgiving. This makes for nearly a seven-mile continuous stretch of trail between Overbrook and Michigan Valley. Kanza directors and the Overbrook Friends of the Trail developed this section using funds from Sunflower Foundation. This will bring the trail only two miles from Pomona Lake. The extension of the Landon Trail will increase the range of trail users and provide them with a greater opportunity to exercise for health and fun.
Another section is projected to open by Spring 2022 and essentially completes the Landon Trail within the Clinton Wildlife Area from one mile east of Ratner Rd. east and south to the Shadden Road Bridge near the ghost town of Richland. The two-mile section will pass by wetlands teaming with waterfowl and traverse the 238-foot-long Wakarusa River Bridge, the longest bridge on the trail. Finally, it is expected that the trail will be extended two miles from the Shadden Road Bridge to the Shawnee Heights Rd. Bridge by the end of 2022.
E-Bike Tax Credit May Become Reality
There is currently a provision in the Build Back Better Act bill which would provide a 30% tax credit for purchase of a new E-bike. Since most are in the $1,500-$2,000 range the credit would be about $450-$600. They are legal on the State’s rail-trails as long as they don’t exceed 23 mph or are fully electric. The credit is to encourage people to use bikes instead of cars which produce 20 lbs. of CO2 per gallon of gas. Some people cannot or will not use regular bikes. It is unclear if the provision will remain in the final bill.
Scott City Trail Under Construction
Construction began on the Santa Fe Street Rail Trail in Scott City this summer. The trail will be established on the railroad right-of-way from 6th Street to Alice Street. The trail will be a 10-foot concrete walkway extending about one mile. The City was awarded a $315,000 federal Transportation Alternatives grant by KDOT. The City had to provide a 20% match and pay for EBH’s services which include preparation of the application, design work and inspections. It is basically a turn-key project just like the trail in Hillsboro which just opened. The Scott City Trail will be extended two blocks to Road 140. The county seat of 3,600 people is building a trail network despite a declining population.
Flint Hills Trail Now Nat’l Rec Trail
In February the National Park Service designated the Flint Hills Trail State Park a National Recreation Trail, the highest honor for a trail. The designation brings no monetary prize, but the park can now use signage that denotes its high quality. The trail will also get special recognition on some maps of America’s trails. The Flint Hills Trail, built along an abandoned railroad line. required a tremendous amount of private labor to become reality. It is now being completed by the Kansas Dept. of Wildlife and Parks.
Published by Sunflower Rail-Trails Conservancy
Clark H. Coan, Editor