Governor inks Rock Island Trail State Park Endowment Fund bill

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MoRIT) Executive Director Greg Harris sees Gov. Michael L. Parson’s July 10 signing of the Rock Island State Park Endowment Fund as a positive step forward.

“To me, the bill language — that was the first time any government entity has put the words together as the Rock Island Trail State Park — as an entity,” Harris said Monday about passage the signing last week of Senate Bill 196.

MoRIT found out the morning of July 10 that the governor was going to sign the bill and scrambled to have board members at the event. Those in attendance for the signing of the bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, who was also present, included MoRIT founding member and first board president Chrysa Niewald, Daphney Partridge of Eldon and Rick Mihalevich from Jefferson City. Department of Natural Resources Director Carol Comer was also in attendance.

“It was really meaningful to hearing Sen. MIke Bernskoetter and the governor talk about how terrific the project is what a great day it was for Missouri,” Harris said.

He added that Missouri State Parks (MSP) has been looking for a clear direction from the governor and legislature concerning the Rock Island Railroad donation, currently owned by Ameren Missouri.

“The bill signing gives them that clear direction,” Harris said. “They should take that and start putting their foot on the gas.”

MSP Deputy Director Mike Sutherland said at a recent trail meeting that the state has three choices in regards to the former Rock Island Railroad come Aug. 20 when the interim trail use is set to expire: they can accept it, extend the interim trail use for negotiations with Ameren, or decline it.

“Missouri State Parks is in the thick of writing an agreement,” Harris said. “The governor has not shown his cards, but at the signing, all parties were part of it.”

Since the Rock Island Endowment Fund passed unanimously in the Senate and had minimal opposition in the House of Representatives, the governor did not have to sign the bill for it to become law — it would have automatically taken effect Aug. 28.

“The governor signed it when he could have let it go into law without his fingerprints on it,” Harris said. “It’s a big deal. They commented that the people in the green shirts have been all over this to make it happen — we were the people in green shirts.”