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Friday, February 05, 2010

Bridge saved for Katy Trail use

Bicycle advocates concerned about the future of the Katy Trail won a victory Thursday when Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced that the Union Pacific Railroad has agreed to give the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy) Railroad bridge that spans the Missouri River to the city of Boonville.

The Union Pacific had planned to tear down the historic bridge and use the scrap metal to build a bridge across the Osage River near Jefferson City. However, federal stimulus money targeted for high-speed rail servicein Missouri will be used to build the Osage River bridge. That meant meant the bridge could be turned over to Boonville, The Associated Press reported.

Groups, including the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation, had feared that demolition of the Boonville bridge would have broken up the 225-mile trail corridor, making it vulnerable to legal challenges by landowners.

The bridge has not been used for at least 20 years, and Katy Trail traffic now crosses the Missouri River via the U.S. 40/Missouri 5-87 bridge. The old railroad drawbridge has been locked in the up position since its abandonment, allowing Missouri River barge traffic to pass.

The Save the Katy Bridge Coalition has been working for years to preserve the bridge. Take a look at the group's site to learn more about the bridge.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Katy Trail sees boost in visitors

While much of the country struggles with the recession, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports businesses in the small towns along the Katy Trail, a 225-mile former railroad right-of-way that connects St. Charles and Clinton, Mo., are thriving.

From January to July, 62,794 people hiked, jogged or biked the section of Katy Trail State Park between St. Charles and Weldon Spring, according to an estimate by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. That's up from the 41,661 users in the same period last year.

The Post-Dispatch article attributes the boost to two reasons: better weather in 2009 than in 2008 and the desire of many people to stay closer to home for low-cost recreational activities.

Tour of Missouri spectators will get two chances to encounter the trail if they want to get some miles in. Stage 4 on Thursday ends in Jefferson City, which is just across the Missouri River from the Katy Trail. The Stage 5 individual time trial is Friday in Sedalia, and there's three access points to the course from the Katy Trail.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Katy Trail offshoot proposed

Officials in Portage des Sioux, Mo., are mulling an offshoot of the Katy Trail that would connect the Mississippi River community with the 225-plus mile trail.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the town's leaders are planning a meeting for 7 p.m. Monday at the Portage des Sioux City Hall to gauge reaction to the trail, which would take cyclists to the town's nature area that was created after the Flood of 1993.

A route has yet to be selected, but Mayor Mark Warner told the Post-Dispatch one logical choice would be a shoulder of a mile-long stretch of Payne Road between the town and the eastern tip of the Katy Trail in the Machens area.

Missouri officials are hoping to complete the Katy Trail between Machens and St. Charles by later this year.

Portage des Sioux is best known for the Our Lady of the Rivers statue, which overlooks the Mississippi River at the bluffs across the river near Elsah, Ill. The statue is the home of the annual Blessing of the Fleet. The statue was completed in 1957 after the community was spared by a flood in 1951.

While I think the spur to Portage des Sioux would be a great idea, I personally am in favor of a trail that would tie the Katy to the Clark Bridge in Alton, Ill., and tie the Katy into Madison County's extensive trail system.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Pedaler's Jamboree on the Katy Trail

The other day when I was posting a reminder about registration for the Tour de Stooges (May 2 in Highland, Ill., by the way!) at the forums, I saw this interesting ride on Memorial Day weekend on the Katy Trail.

Off Track Events is billing the Pedaler's Jamboree as Missouri's first-ever bike powered music and camping festival. Cyclists will make a 75-mile round trip over two days, May 23-24 from Columbia to Boonville and back, on the Katy and MKT trails.

In addition to the easy riding on the trails, event organizers also are promising free music at various stops along the trails, free entry to a beer garden in Boonville to listen to music, free pickup and drop off at gear at Boonville and rewards for self-contained cycling.

The cost of the ride? $30 if you sign up by May 16 and $35 if you procrastinate. Children 11-16 are half-price, and children 10 or younger are free. It will cost you an additional $10 to camp in Boonville, and there are hotels available in Boonville if you'd rather not camp.

Big Smith, a Springfield, Mo.-based band with a large following in the Midwest, will be the headline performer May 23 in Boonville. Below is a sample of Big Smith's music:

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Work to begin on new Katy Trail segment

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Friday announced that work will begin later this month on linking the Kansas City area to the Katy Trail State Park, The Associated Press reports.

The 46-mile Rock Island Trail-Katy Connector will run 42 miles from Pleasant Hill, 35 miles southeast of Kansas City, to Windsor, where it joins the main 225-mile trail.

That means that cyclists will be able to ride on a trail all the way from the Kansas City metro area to the St. Louis metro area, or vice versa. The trail now ends in St. Charles

The new trail is being paid for with $18 million from a settlement the state reached last year with St. Louis-based utility AmerenUE over the December 2005 collapse of the Taum Sauk reservoir in southeast Missouri, AP reported. Ameren also agreed to let the state use its easement along the old Rock Island railroad for the trail.

Brent Hugh, executive director of the Missouri Bicycle Federation, says the long-term goal is to tie the Katy Trail to other trail systems in Illinois and Nebraska. "We could literally be looking at an 800-mile network of trails through five states, and the Katy Trail is the backbone of it," he told AP.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Notes along the Katy Trail

Here's a collection of items about the Katy Trail you may find of interest:

CARL EDWARDS RIDES THE KATY TRAIL: Before NASCAR driver Carl Edwards won last Saturday's Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers 250 Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., he spent three days riding the Katy Trail from his hometown of Columbia, Mo.

I didn't write about it last week because I thought Dave Luecking of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch did a nice job of covering the ride on the newspaper's 10 Speed and Left Turns blogs. Dave accompanied Carl for 30 miles of his trek. Numerous other NASCAR bloggers have written about the ride.

The Memphis Commerical Appeal also picked up on Carl's Katy Trail adventure in its Friday editions. Despite Carl's fame on the NASCAR circuit, he was able to visit a pool in Washington, Mo., and a Sav-a-Lot store in Hermann in relative obscurity.

"We were a pack of sweaty guys on bicycles, we walk in there, sugar-depleted, buying bananas and Gummi Bears in the checkout line," Carl told the Commercial Appeal. "I saw they were going to have a show car at the store on Sunday. I said, 'Oh, so you are going to have a car here?' They were like, 'Sure,' and we talked about it for a while and no one recognized me. And there were pictures of me everywhere.

"The Save-a-Lot standups are smaller than I am, which throws them off at the store. 'You look like Carl, except you're taller, isn't that funny?'"

BICYCLEWORKS MARATHON ON KATY TRAIL: On Friday morning, volunteers from the St. Louis-based BicycleWORKS began a marathon on the 225-mile Katy Trail. Their goal was to start from St. Charles, Mo., and ride for as long as possible without sleeping 30 or more minutes. BicycleWORKS challenged people to donate 25 cents a mile. Even though the ride already started -- and may have ended -- I'm sure BicycleWORKS would appreciate a donation.

BicycleWORKS was founded in 1988 by a Shaw Neighborhood resident who saw the need to provide area youth with the opportunity to develop a skill and to challenge them to test the limits of their abilities. This vision combined with the universal appeal of the bicycle became the building block of this innovative organization.

BicycleWORKS is the first St. Louis program to use the bicycle as a vehicle to teach youth responsibility and good work habits. Its programs are structured and work-intensive. BicycleWORKS combines vocational training with educational enrichment and challenging physical and mental activity.

FULL ARTICLE ON MY KATY TRAIL RIDE NOW ONLINE: Last month, I rode most of the Katy Trail as part of the Missouri Department of Natural Resource's Katy Trail Ride. I recently posted the full account, complete with photos.

Although I had a few foibles on this ride, I hope I've balanced that out with the photos of interesting sights along the trail as well as positive remarks about the trail and the way DNR ran the ride.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Back from the Katy Trail

As you can see, the Missouri River keeps on rolling along -- albeit a bit higher than normal -- along the Katy Trail.

Yes, I did ride the Katy Trail last week. I hope to have the full article up on the Web site later this week, but here's a brief summary.

In some ways, it was the kind of ride where everything that could go wrong did. For example, I wasn't happy to find out that when I got to Hermann, Mo., last Monday that I had left my towel and comb at home. Ugh.

At our final camping spot in Liberty Park in Sedalia, a heavy thunderstorm blew through town and knocked down my tent, drenching everything in it.

And yet, it was a rewarding ride. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources does a first-rate job of supporting cyclists, and it's hard to top the Katy Trail for scenery in this part of the world. The bluffs near Augusta and Rocheport are very scenic, but I also found the rolling plains between Sedalia and Clinton rewarding as well.

Flooding on the Missouri River did force a couple of detours, as I expected, but the flooding on the Missouri is nothing like the flooding on the Mississippi right now.

I really didn't have the opportunity to find Internet access during the trip, and that was a blessing in disguise. I found I really needed to take a break from the Internet, e-mail and blogging. I spent way too much time on this computer this spring because of organizing work I did for the Tour de Stooges and The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery Bicycle Ride, and it was great to spend time on a bike!

My mountain bike made it through the trail OK, although I probably would have been happier on a lighter hybrid or at least with less-aggressive mountain bike tires on the crushed limestone surface on the Katy Trail. I do now have a name for my mountain bike, a Raleigh -- Behemoth!

Another reason I was glad I didn't access e-mail or the Internet last week was because the parent company of the Belleville News-Democrat, McClatchy Newspapers, announced that it was eliminating 1,400 jobs nationwide through layoffs, voluntary departures and attrition. The News-Democrat will be cutting 12 jobs. I am grateful none of them are in our newsroom, but I feel for those who will lose jobs in other departments.

It is discomforting when you think about the troubled state of the newspaper industry. Recently, fellow bicycle blogger and journalist Jill Homer reported in her Up in Alaska blog that her newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, is indefinitely cutting retirement benefits.

Yes, a week away from reality did do me a lot of good!

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Ride West on the Katy Trail

In a matter of hours, I will begin the Missouri Department of Natural Resource's Katy Trail Ride in St. Charles, Mo. Monday's trek takes us through the thick of Missouri's Wine Country as it passes through Augusta and continues on to Hermann.

This ride will mark at least a couple of firsts for me.
  • This ride will be the first I've ever done on my mountain bike, a Raleigh M-80. Nearly all of my other major multiday trips have been done onroad bikes. The only exception was the 2006 BubbaFest in the Florida Keys, when I rented a flat-bar road bike. I'm on the mountain bike because the Katy Trail is a crushed limestone trail. I fully expect parts of the trail to be soft because of all the rain we've had here in the Midwest this spring, so a mountain bike should work just fine on the trail.
  • It will be first time I've done the full length of the trail, from St. Charles to Clinton. I've done some of the prettier parts of the trail between St. Charles to Augusta, but I can't wait to see the entire thing.
Unlike the Mississippi River, which is now experiencing major flooding, the Missouri River is only seeing moderate flooding. I wouldn't be surprised if we have a few detours to navigate to avoid flooded areas, but most of the trail is open.

When I decided to take this week off, I was expected to do either the Katy Trail or the Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure. Gasoline prices ultimately made me decide to stay closer to home.

Another factor, though, is a lack of miles compared with where I've been in previous springs. All the work I did on Tour de Stooges and The Gerry Frierdich Road to Recovery really ate into my training time, and when I did have time, the weather was either really bad or I was sick. My strategy for this trip is to go slow, stop often and treat the ride as a bunch of short segments instead of a long day.

I will try to write reports from the road when I can, although socializing will take a higher priority over blogging this week.

Wish me luck!

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Katy Trail Connection

On Wednesday an event that the Missouri Bicycle Federation, bicycling and trails groups, and thousands of individuals across Missouri have been working hard to achieve for many years came to fruition with an agreement to "complete the Katy Trail" by connecting it to the Kansas City metro area.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Attorney General's Office, and the electric utility AmerenUE announced a settlement regarding the Taum Sauk dam disaster Wednesday,

The settlement includes about $180 million in reparation payments from Ameren.

Included in the settlement is a "trail use agreement" and $18 million that will allow DNR to build the Katy Trail Connection to Kansas City and will pay a good part of the expense of building the trail connection.

"Our thanks go to Governor (Matt) Blunt, Attorney General Jay Nixon, and DNR Director Doyle Childers for working together to make sure the Katy Trail Connection was included in the Ameren agreement," said Dr. Brent Hugh, president of the Missouri Bicycle Federation. "Political differences made the negotiations rocky at times, but all sides were able to see the benefit of the Katy Trail connection for all Missourians and, in the end, all sides had to work together to make it happen.

"All involved can consider the Katy Trail Connection to be an important part of their legacy--a new 46-mile long state park that will be enjoyed by many millions of citizens for decades and centuries to come," he said.

Here's some details about the connection provided by the federation:
  • The Katy Trail connection will be built on the Rock Island railroadcorridor between Windsor and Pleasant Hill. Pleasant Hill is on the edge ofthe Kansas City metropolitan area. (Union Pacific owns the Rock Island line from From Pleasant Hill on in to Kansas City, and plans are already underway to connect the trail through Lee's Summit and eventually to downtown Kansas City via alternate routes.)
  • The portion of the Rock Island corridor that will be used for the trail isabout 46 miles. Putting this together with the 'Machens extension' on theeast end (about 11 miles), this will increase the total size of thecomplete Katy Rail-Trail network to approximately 282 miles.
  • The Rock Island portion of the trail will be a "rails-with-trails" project--the trail will be built in the railroad right-of-way alongside the railroad tracks so that the railroad can still use the corridor in the future. Building the Katy Trail Connection alongside the existing track will be relatively expensive compared with building a trail on the railbed, as the rest of the Katy Trail and most rail-trails are. Much grading and foundation work must be done, and bridges and underpasses built alongside existing railroad bridges and underpasses.
  • However, the agreement includes $18 million from Ameren to assist in construction expenses. Apparently this is not enough to completely construct the 46-mile segment and additional funds will be needed--either from the Missouri General Assembly or from other sources.
  • The state also receives first right of refusal for purchase of the railroad corridor if Ameren ever decides to sell it.
Here's some more links about the Katy Trail Connection

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cycling issues in Missouri

There's good news and bad news regarding cycling on the Missouri side of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area.

First, the good news: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that work on an additional 11 miles of the Katy Trail in St. Charles County should begin this summer. Gov. Matt Blunt announced Wednesday that the state and the local levee district have finally reached an agreement on completing the section of trail from St. Charles north to Machens.

Blunt said the state has asked Ameren Corp. to let the state use an old Rock Island Railroad bed it owns as part of the trail, the Post-Dispatch This would extend the trail from Windsor, east of Clinton, to Pleasant Hill, a suburb of Kansas City.

Now, the bad news: Fritz's Cycle-licious blog has picked up on the controversy raised by some cyclists about the plans to divert motorized traffic from Interstate 64/U.S. Highway 40 onto Clayton Road, a popular road with St. Louis County cyclists, during the reconstruction of I-64/U.S. 40.

I haven't written about the topic because I thought it was being handled well by the Missouri Bicycle Federation and the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation forums. Since I don't have a lot of first-hand experience riding on St. Louis County roads -- the bulk of my local riding is done on Illinois roads and trails -- I'm not sure how qualified I am to offer an opinion.

The concerns is that the plan for Clayton Road to handle some of the I-64/U.S. 40 would eliminate the wide lanes popular with cyclists, and there are fears that the altered lanes would become permanent once the highway work is done.

Garry Earls, St. Louis County's chief highway engineer, told one member of STLBikeFed:
... St. Louis County has neither considered nor proposed that bicycle traffic be banned on public roads. We know that in a perfect world, the masses would embrace bicycle riding as their regular mode of transportation. It's good for the heart and good for the planet. We don't live in a perfect world. In the real world, our community is composed of a diverse population measured from any statistic. It is clear that commuter patterns and family composition establish a level of motor vehicle traffic on our roads that cannot be swept away by any transportation planner's idealism. The reality of our circumstances is that for an extremely high percentage of our road users, the 10-speed simply isn't an option for traveling to work or getting children to school.
And that is the crux of the issue: Is the greater good served by providing options that serve the populace as it now stands, or is it better served by options that change the way people approach transportation in the region?

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