Advocates of a local hiking-and-biking trail along the route of the Santa Fe Trail further sketched out their hopes on Monday.
“It’s just a hidden sort of gem that we have,” Travis Boley of the Oregon-California Trails Association, based in Independence, told Jackson County legislators on Monday.
The National Park Service has designated the corridor from the Wayne City landing in Sugar Creek south to the Square, then south and west through Independence and into Raytown and Kansas City, then west to Gardner, Kansas, as a national park. Last month, the Mid-America Regional Council hired a company, using Park Service funds, to determine a “retracement” of the route used by settlers on the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails.
“From beginning to end, the retracement trail is 40 miles long,” Boley said.
Pieces of the trail do exist, and Boley said Cerner and Avila College in south Kansas City, for example, have been working on portions of it on their properties.
Audrey Elder, a real estate agent, a local history advocate and OCTA volunteer, pointed to the economic benefits. She said green zones have higher property values, and for trails – especially properties nearest the trail – that effect is more pronounced.
“It has huge, huge economic benefits,” she said.
That could help Independence.
“I think the city of Independence could be a hub,” Boley said.
Boley also mentioned the announcement a couple of weeks ago by Gov. Jay Nixon that a 47.5-mile extension of the Katy Trail from Windsor north to Pleasant Hill should be done by the end of 2016.
“That’s a really fast timetable,” he said.
The Katy runs 240 miles from Clinton east to Machens, Missouri in the St. Louis area. The state says its annual economic benefit to the state is $18.5 billion, including supporting hundreds of jobs.
The county has been trying to extend its trails system and has looked at the old Rock Island tracks from near Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums south and east to at least the Longview area, with the idea of a connection someday to the Katy.
Boley said a trailhead for the Santa Fe and Rock Island trails around 63rd Street and Blue Ridge Boulevard would make sense.
Eventually, a network of trails connected with places in Kansas and Nebraska could be possible.
“We think we could make a big, contiguous MIdwest loop,” Boley said.