APRIL 4, 2011 -- On Saturday, state officials opened a new 11-mile section of Katy Trail State Park that stretches from St. Charles to Machens in St. Charles County.
The Katy Trail, heralded as the nation's premier rail-trail project, now stretches 240 miles from Clinton, Mo., in the west to Machens in the east. Eventually the trail will connect to Kansas City via the Rock Island trail. The first section of the trail opened in 1990.
"This is a historic day, which many Missourians have long awaited," said Gov. Jay Nixon during the trail extension ribbon-cutting. "Today, the last section of the original Katy Trail corridor is open for bicyclists and pedestrians to enjoy, just as they have enjoyed using other sections of this great recreational resource for the past 21 years."
Foremost among those with reason to celebrate today is philanthropist Pat Jones, the Governor said.
"Pat and her late husband, Ted, were the driving forces behind the Katy Trail, with their vision and their financial support, and we owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude," Gov. Nixon said. "The Katy Trail means so much to Missouri, the communities it passes through, and the people who use it, and the benefits multiply with this new section."
The 11-mile section was part of the original Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad right-of-way from Machens to Sedalia, which was acquired by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources in 1987 for development as Katy Trail State Park. An additional 33 miles of the Katy corridor between Sedalia and Clinton was added in 1991. Before the final section could be built between St. Charles and Machens, floods of 1993 and 1995 severely damaged the corridor, which is along the Missouri River. Damage included two scour holes so large they could not be filled.
Using a grant from The Great Rivers Greenway, crews were able to build the trail around one of the holes on Katy Trail property. An agreement with the Consolidated North County Levee District provided an easement on the inside of the L-15 levee so the trail could be built around the second scour hole. The final section of trail around the second scour hole was completed this spring. The Missouri Department of Transportation managed the project, which was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"We're very pleased we can finally complete the trail on the original right-of-way that was acquired," said Missouri State Parks Director Bill Bryan. "Completion of this section opens up opportunities to connect to a trail network in the St. Louis and St. Charles County area. With the assistance of local and regional organizations, the goal is for a trail network to one day reach to the Illinois border."
Now that the eastern end of the Katy Trail has been completed, the effort will be focused on connecting the trail on the western end of the state. Work is currently ongoing the Rock Island Trail State Park, which will connect to the Katy Trail at Windsor. When the Rock Island Trail is completed, it will serve as a link in a regional effort to provide trail access all the way to the Kansas border. When this occurs, the Katy Trail will be the main component in a trail system that stretches from border to border across Missouri.
The Katy Trail, which celebrated its 20th birthday in 2010, is a national and international destination and was one of the first inductees into the national Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. More than 300,000 hikers and bicyclists annually visit the trail, which is one of the most significant features in the Missouri state park system.
The trail offers users a form of healthy outdoor exercise while experiencing the varied landscapes of Missouri from open fields and thick forests to dramatic views of the Missouri River. It has become a vital component of the economy for many small communities, which have welcomed the Katy Trail users to explore the cultural history of the area.
Photo: First Lady Georganne Nixon and Gov. Jay Nixon walk along the new 11-mile section of the Katy Trail from St. Charles to Machens on Saturday, April 2. Gov. and Mrs. Nixon joined State Parks Director Bill Bryan, local leaders and trail enthusiasts for a ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier in the day. With the new section open, the entire trail now stretches for 240 miles across Missouri. Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office.