$1.9 million federal grant plots route for Flint Hills Nature Trail’s completion

Near Rantoul, the Flint Hills Nature Trail follows the former rail bed along a wooded hillside beside the Marais des Cygnes River.

A federal grant will plow another $1.9 million into completion of the Flint Hills Nature Trail, the Kansas Department of Transportation announced earlier this week. The new grant will add to last year’s $2.4 million boost to the trail’s development funded by federal and state  grants.

“This major grant will allow the realization of the dream to complete one of the nation’s premiere trails,” Scott Allen, president of Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy, said in the group’s news release about the grant.

The conservancy said the new grant will allow a second phase of development, and should complete the trail from Osawatomie to Council Grove, about three-fourths of the 117-mile stretch of  the rail-banked former Missouri Pacific rail line. The trail traverses seven Kansas counties from Herington to Osawatomie and bisects Osage County east to west.

KDOT announced earlier this week the Flint Hills Nature Trail was one of 20 projects totaling $11.5 million in transportation alternatives grants funded by a federal program. Transportation alternatives includes facilities for pedestrians and bicycles; rehabilitation of historic transportation facilities; construction of turnouts, overlooks and viewing areas; conversion of abandoned railway corridors to trails; community improvement such as streetscape enhancements; and control or removal of outdoor advertising. The grants require the applicant to fund a minimum of 20 percent of the project cost.

KDOT announced the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism applied for funding in the amount of $1,972,592 for a second phase of development of the Flint Hills Nature Trail.

In announcement of grants awarded last year for the Flint Hills Nature Trail – $1.5 million in federal transportation enhancement funds and $900,000 in recreational trails funds managed by KWDPT – state officials estimated those funds would complete development of the trail. As planning and design proceeded and a series of community meetings were held to gain public input, officials later revised those estimates, indicating more funds would be needed to complete the trail. KDWPT is also administering the federal transportation enhancement funds for the project.

KRTC, which has already developed about 60 miles of the rail-trail using donated funds and volunteers, said in its news release the project has now been divided into two phases: Phase 1, between Osawatomie and U.S. 75, continues in design stage with construction expected to begin this fall; phase 2 will include development between U.S. 75 and Admire.

The trail operators said funds will be used to install a hard-packed, crushed limestone surface suitable for bicycles, wheelchairs and horses, along with signage, railing, decking and repair of bridges, culvert repair and other necessary upgrades. The group said the combined grants should be sufficient to complete the trail from Osawatomie to Council Grove, about 90 miles.

About 40 miles of the Flint Hills Nature Trail extends across Osage County; most of it is traversable by horse, bicycle or foot traffic. KRTC, which has operated the Flint Hills Nature Trail since 2001, also operates the Landon Nature Trail, which will stretch from Topeka to near Quenemo when completed. The Landon Nature Trail remains largely undeveloped in Osage County, except a two-mile stretch at Overbrook.

Upon completion of the Landon Nature Trail and the Flint Hills Nature Trail, which intersects the state-operated Prairie Spirit Trail, the trails will form 204 miles of interconnecting rail-trails in eastern Kansas.

Flint Hills Nature Trail received the largest grant in the state from the recent federal transportation alternatives grants, with other pedestrian or bicycle projects funded primarily for municipalities. Projects include a shared use path along U.S. 73 at Atchison for $1,171,235; Cimarron, shared use path on Main Street, $191,452; Concordia, shared use paths through College Drive Park, $462,387; Junction City, shared use path along K-18, $950,000; Manhattan, shared use path along Knox Lane, $165,100; McPherson, shared use path along Avenue A, $302,910; Ottawa, sidewalk and bike lanes on 15th Street, $223,203; Pittsburg, shared use path along south Rouse Avenue, $656,103; and Topeka , implementation of phase 2 of the Topeka Bikeways Master Plan , $223,075.

Alternative transportation grants also were awarded for historical projects such as restoration of brick streets in Goodland and Manhattan, in addition to scenic or environmental projects including $145,930 for improvements to the Baldwin City Depot, and $800,000 for KDWPT to implement the Kansas Byways Interpretative Plan.

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is the longest trail in the Kansas, follows the general route of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, and will form a component of the planned coast-to-coast American Discovery Trail when completed.

See related story here.

For more information about the Landon and Flint Hills nature trails, visit www.kanzatrails.org.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas