DNR, MCRR granted deadline extension

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

Missouri Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and Ameren subsidiary Missouri Central RailRoad (MCRR), formerly the Chicago Rock Island Line, received a 133-day interim trail use extension — through Dec. 31, 2019, to continue negotiations to railbank the 144 miles of trail to the state.

“This will allow the time for potential partnerships to be explored and developed by the Missouri State Parks Foundation,” said Mike Sutherland, deputy director of state parks, in an Aug. 14 press release.

The two parties were expected to reach an interim trail use agreement by Aug. 20, and announce if the state planned to take Ameren’s donation of the former Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad corridor stretching from Windsor to Beaufort. 

Sutherland said at a June landowners meeting in Belle that he expected it was only a matter of time before the state accepted the linear trail. He added that with the bi-partisan support of the Rock Island Endowment Fund, which would allow for “deposited funds to be used by the department in securing and assessing the corridor,” legislators have exhibited an expectation of the trail.

The parties applied for the deadline extension on the negotiations July 29 from the Surface Transportation Board (STB), informing them that, “although MDNR and MCRR have made substantial progress in negotiating the terms of trail use and are meeting weekly, they have not yet executed an interim trail use agreement.”

Both parties maintain that they have continued to meet almost weekly during the 180 day extension (Feb 20 through Aug. 20), and are very close to reaching an agreement. Attorneys for both parties also specifically mention that they need more time to develop a fundraising strategy to determine how the state would support the linear park.

“We are excited for the Missouri State Park Foundation to take a role in developing support for the project,” said Dru Buntin, deputy director of MDNR, in an Aug. 14 press release. “The foundation will be critical in bringing together the non-governmental partners that an undertaking of this size will require.”

In addition to fundraising, several towns along the former Rock Island Line have expressed interest in partnering with Missouri State Parks to provide some combination of maintenance, development and security. Roughly 90 of the 144 miles are along a major highway and about 30 miles of the corridor are within the city limits of 18 towns, Missouri State Parks engineers have noted. A full 41 percent of Missourians live within 50 miles of the corridor.