The Katy Trail State Park, the nation’s longest rails-to-trails project, now stretches to the outskirts of Kansas City. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon opened a new section of the pathway Saturday, connecting the town of Pleasant Hill in Cass County southeast of Kansas City to Windsor.
The 47-mile stretch, along an old rail corridor, took the Missouri Department of Natural Resources seven years to construct, at a cost of $15.5 million.
The Katy Trail is now a nearly 300-mile walkway connecting the suburbs of St. Louis with the outskirts of Kansas City. Jackson County plans to connect the trail to the Truman Sports Complex by 2018.
Before cutting a red ribbon with a pair of oversize scissors, Nixon described how the Katy Trail has always featured in the background of his public service, from his first days in the Missouri Senate in the late-1980s, to today, one month before he finishes a second term as governor.
“The Show Me State is a place where we love the outdoors, where we’re willing to work together to make sure it’s better,” he said. “And we’re very proud that each of us live by the belief, when it comes to the outdoors, that it is our responsibility to turn this planet over to others better than we found it, not the same as we found it. And this does that.”
Sharon Euler, a cyclist and resident of Gladstone, said she has anxiously awaited the opening of this new section of the trail.
“It’s great to be able to connect the Katy Trail closer to the city so that everybody can have more access to it,” Euler said.
Tyler Month, vice-president of the Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce, said this project is like a bridge from Pleasant Hill to other small communities in the area.
“We’re off the beaten path as far as highways go," Month said, "so this attracts a different group of organizations and individuals to our town that would not have otherwise come here.”
Danny Wood is a freelance contributor to KCUR 89.3.