Missouri communities hope Rock Island Trail can bring new faces and businesses to rural towns | KCUR 89.3

Missouri communities hope Rock Island Trail can bring new faces and businesses to rural towns |  KCUR 89.3


WINDSOR – Kim Henderson arranges four modest log cabins tucked away a few blocks behind Main Street in this small town 90 minutes southeast of Kansas City.

“I’ve told people many times – and I still mean it – I’ve done more cabins in Windsor than I have done for myself,” Henderson said.

Windsor, which has a population of about 2,900, is where Katie Trail and 47 miles away Rock Island Trail Meets. Both are former railway lanes. One of them is now a world famous outdoor entertainment attraction. The other is only a quarter complete.

Henderson, now a small business owner, has lived in Windsor for more than 30 years. She has seen the benefits that Katy Trail has provided to her community.

“It brings people here who have never come to Windsor, Missouri,” Henderson said.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has officially acquired the remaining 144 miles of undeveloped acreage rock island corridor In 2021. The track plan has been in the works for a longer period. Henderson eagerly awaited the creation of the Rock Island Trail and followed the initial maps waiting for him.

“I’ve watched the dotted line 47 miles for 15 years,” Henderson said. “I saw that dotted line…and waited.”

When former Missouri Governor Jay Nixon was make commitment To finish the first 47 miles of the Rock Island Trail before he left his post, Henderson purchased two plots of land near where it intersects with the Katy Trail. She started renting her first cabin in 2015.

“My first guests weren’t even cyclists,” Henderson said.

    The Pour Poet is a coffee and antiques shop on Main Street in Windsor, Missouri.

Maggie Linux

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Colombia Missourian

The Pour Poet is a coffee and antiques shop on Main Street in Windsor, Missouri.

A local Amish carpenter built two more cabins for Henderson two years later. She supplied them with materials from the family-owned furniture store in Windsor. In 2018, the fourth cabin was installed, and Henderson quit her full-time job as a city administrator.

Kim’s cabins are often booked fixedly. She estimates that half of her guests are cyclists. The rest are families visiting Windsor for funerals or weddings, mobile nurses, vendors at the Missouri State Fair, construction workers and people traveling through central Missouri.

“I put these in the minds of cyclists,” Henderson said. “…I never imagined how many people I would receive for any other reason now, because the cabins are here.”

$69 million to zero

This Spring Governor Mike Parson Announce a historic investment For the Rock Island Trail: $69 million to convert another 78-mile segment into a track. Plans to use funds from the US Federal Bailout Act.

If and when the route is completed, due to its intersection with the Katy Track in Windsor, it will become the longest trail rail track in the world.

But Parson’s plan He did not survive the legislative session. The Senate cut Rock Island’s budget to $0.

Legislators cited the Missouri Department of Natural Resources deferred maintenance In other state parks and Fears of landowners Along the corridor as reasons to cut money.

Communities along the path are moving forward despite the lack of legislative support.

Mac McNally leads the volunteers who make up Missouri Rock Island Trail Collection. He said lawmakers’ decision to cut funding is disheartening, but by no means ends.

“We’ve had challenges before,” McNally said. “We will continue to try to help funding sources to build the track.”

The group is made up of local public servants, business owners, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and anyone interested in completing the trail. They’re driven by the growth they’ve seen on the 240-mile Katy Trail that it brings to neighboring communities. A 2012 report, the most recent DNR analysis, found that the pathway brought in more than $18 million in Missouri.

“That could mean a huge amount of economic stimulus for small communities that were kind of left on the side of the road after railroads stopped running more than 30 years ago,” McNally said.

Local volunteers aren’t just looking for funding. Representatives from the General Directorate of Refugees and the National Park Service have stepped in to help connect communities with grants to complete their pathway section.

“The National Park Service is proud to be a partner in this and to serve the people of Missouri in this way,” said Ashley Newson. She works for the National Park Service’s River and Trail Assistance and Conservation Program.

Newson spent the summer helping interested communities along the trail, holding meetings, identifying grants, and designing trails. She said building portions of the track is a great way to build momentum for the project.

Kim's Cabins in Windsor, Missouri.  Proponents hope the Rock Island Trail will bring economic development to the small towns along the trail.

Maggie Linux

/

Colombia Missourian

Kim’s Cabins in Windsor, Missouri. Proponents hope the Rock Island Trail will bring economic development to the small towns along the trail.

Eventually, each section of the corridor will need to be connected. But Newson said the incremental approach shows commitment.

“This is an important component of getting that popular support to show the county or the state, like, hey, we’ve developed it in all of our cities. Right now we just need it to connect across these areas,” Newson said.

The potential to rejuvenate rural communities

Kelly Thompson describes the used book collection in her downtown Windsor store.

“I’m pretty heavy on the classics. I think you can’t always please everyone when they come over to get the books, but if you have classics, there is some common ground,” Thompson said.

Thompson moved to Windsor two years ago. Her husband Donovan followed her a year later. A native of Southern California, they lived and worked in Nevada and Saline County, Missouri.

“We are Missouri by heart,” Donovan Thompson said.

The Thomsons opened their new store, casting poet, Last month. They sell coffee, tea, pastries, used books and antiques. Kelly Thompson explains the eclectic mix.

“All these are my passions. All I have here is my passion.”

Kelly Thompson talks about an old book at The Pour Poet in Windsor, MO.  Thompson has many favorite items in her vintage store, including a chair, stitch sampler and a book.

Maggie Lennox / Maggie Lennox

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Colombia Missourian

Kelly Thompson talks about an old book at The Pour Poet in Windsor, MO. Thompson has many favorite items in her vintage store, including a chair, stitch sampler and a book.

The Thompsons family has purchased several properties in Windsor, and they plan to renovate and restore all of them. Some properties have been vacant for so long that they find newspapers from the 1940s and 1950s scattered.

Donavan Thompson has worked in construction and does all the restoration work. Many people have asked: Why bother?

“Everyone told me it was neglected and had to be demolished,” he said.

The back corner of a building collapsed a few months ago. Thompson took it step by step. He cleaned it up and then built a new foundation and wall.

“I will fight to save him.”

Kelly Thompson said the track was a huge factor in their decision to move and open a small business in Windsor. Found a lot of information about the path while researching the area.

“And the only place they met was Windsor, Missouri,” said Kelly Thompson. “That’s go ding, ding, ding, ding. You’ve got a winner there.”

The Thompsons have plans for a small inn, a restoration store, and office space for the remaining properties.

“There are a lot of plans. It will take some time, but we are not going anywhere,” said Kelly Thompson.

As Amish vans roll on Main Street just outside the front windows of The Pour Poet, Thompsons explain how they fell in love with the people and the character of Windsor, knowing that others would too. They think the Rock Island Trail expansion could breathe life into other small towns along the way.

“There is a lot of heart in this city. There is a lot of pride. There is a lot of history,” Kelly Thompson said. “And honestly, it’s really about bringing it back.”

The end is now

The existing Rock Island Trail meets the paved road behind Windsor City Park and stops. On the other side of the road is a former railway lane filled with brush and weeds, and you can barely see it after the first dozen feet.

The Rock Island Spur connects the tracks in Windsor, and Governor Mike Parson had planned to convert an additional 78 miles of rail into a trail to expand the Rock Island Trail.  & # 13;

Maggie Lennox / Missourian

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Colombia Missourian

The Rock Island Spur connects the tracks in Windsor, and Governor Mike Parson had planned to convert an additional 78 miles of rail into a trail to expand the Rock Island Trail.

Henderson is excited because the track is the next chapter for Rock Island Cities. Trains haven’t arrived in 40 years, and without access to the highway, reusing the lane in this way is Windsor’s best bet.

“We’re never going to have a big industry again, so small towns have to think outside the box,” Henderson said.

Henderson and other advocates of the track insist that the track improves the quality of life not only for travelers but also for residents of the small towns that divide it. Henderson can attest to the demand for housing and believes that the crosswalk will attract more amenities to Windsor.

“I mean, it’s just a huge opportunity because we’re at a crossroads,” Henderson said.

Henderson’s invitation to the trails led to her becoming the Vice President of the Missouri Rock Island Trail Group. She said that small towns cannot become extinct because they are “where family and friends come back”.

After seeing the success of Katy Trail firsthand, Henderson hopes there will be more to come.

“I’ve watched the lanes for a long time, and I know what they can do for small towns.”

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