|Vol. II, No. 4, Spring 1989|
In 1987 the Missouri Department of Natural Resources received a certificate from the Interstate Commerce Commission to manage as a hiking trail the abandoned MKT Railroad right-of-way from Machens in St. Charles County, 200 miles along the Missouri River to Sedalia, in Pettis County.
The Katy Trail has roots in two actions of the federal government: the 1983 National Trail System Act, and the 1986 Report of the President's Commission on Americans' Outdoors. The purpose of the Trails Act was to "bank" vacated railroad rights-of-way (now being abandoned at the rate of some 3000 miles per year) through their use as trails, thus preserving them for possible railroad reuse should the national interest require it. The Outdoors Commission recommended that "communities establish greenways, corridors of private and public recreational lands: and waters, to provide people with access to open spaces close to where they live, and link together the rural and urban space in the American landscape."
Opposed to the Katy Trail are some 150 or more owners of adjacent farmlands, who have sued the slate in a class action to prevent its implementation. They oppose the intrusion of the trail and its potential users upon the boundaries of their lands, and Claim that the vacated right-of-way should revert to the pre-existing owners The suit charges that the federal law is unconstitutional under the fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, i.e. taking without just recompense. The Missouri Farm Bureau Federation is supporting the suit. In a December 1988 decision, the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled the law to be constitutional in principle. The plaintiffs have appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the decision of Which is expected soon.
The Katy Trail is an unusual preserve concept,.being '"100 feet wide and 200 miles long." It is a flat, water-level trail, usable by persons with impaired mobility. Six miles of the trail, located on state property near Weldon Springs in St. Charles County, is presently improved and open to public use.
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