JEFFERSON CITY — Six organizations voiced their support Monday for a bill that would create a private endowment fund for a hiking and biking trail through the Ozark foothills south of the Missouri River.
Trail advocates have sought for more than a quarter century to create a trail from the old Rock Island Railroad corridor. Ameren Missouri turned over 144 miles of the unused rail line to the state Department of Natural Resources for trail development in 2014. No trains have run on most of the line since 1980.
Ameren Missouri spokesman Zach Monroe expressed the company’s support of the trail at the bill’s public hearing Monday in the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee. The bill passed the House on April 18 with a vote of 150-2.
Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles, added the endowment fund as an amendment to the bill on the House floor. Rep. Sonya Anderson, R-Springfield and the House Majority Caucus Chair, originally filed the bill to update the DNR’s concessions and operations statute.
Current law requires the department to advertise in a newspaper all bids for contracts for private entities to run facilities or provide services on state park premises. Anderson’s bill would only require advertisement of contracts expected to bring in $25,000 or more per year.
The bill would also allow the DNR to build state park facilities with donations or grant money in addition to appropriated funds from the legislature.
Two representatives from Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc. spoke at the hearing. Other organizations supporting the bill include the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation and the Conservation Federation of Missouri.
Private money would make the trail one less responsibility for the sales tax that funds state parks, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported earlier this month.
The DNR supports both the trail and the statutory changes, spokesman Rich Germinder said.