Columbia Parks and Recreation
Creating Community through People, Parks and Programs
The MKT Trail is the back-bone of Columbia’s trail system. This 8.9-mile trail connects Columbia with the Katy Trail State Park, which is the longest rail trail in the United States and extends over 200 miles from St. Charles in eastern Missouri to Clinton in western Missouri. The MKT Trail derives its name from its predecessor – the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad.
Missouri-Kansas-Texas RailroadGround was broken for the building of the Union Pacific Railway, Southern Branch at Junction City, Kansas in 1867. In 1870 the company’s name was officially changed to the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, which later received the famous nickname the “Katy.” In 1901 the Katy Railroad added an 8.5-mile branch line from the main line at McBaine to the prosperous college town of Columbia, county seat of Boone County.
Katy mixed train service (passenger and freight) to Columbia ended in 1956; freight-only service ended in 1977 when the line was abandoned following a trestle fire.
MKT Trail Acquisition
In 1978, a year after the Katy Railroad abandoned the rail right of way, Columbia Parks and Recreation applied for and received a grant for $240,000 from the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act from the U.S. Department of Interior. The estimated cost to purchase and develop the land was $275,000. Columbia was one of the first ten Rails-to-Trails pilot projects in the United States. Between 1979 and 1982, the City of Columbia agreed to purchase the quit-claim deed from the railroad for $17,725, which included all the bridges, but only about 25% of the right-of-way needed for the trail development. The City then began the arduous task of buying the remaining right of way from individual land owners. This process was much more time consuming and expensive than planned, as the City had to survey, legally describe, appraise and negotiate for each individual parcel, meeting with opposition from several land owners and navigating legal obstacles. The grant was renegotiated to include only the 4.3 mile section from Stewart Road to Scott Blvd.
MKT Trail Development
The City’s portion of the MKT Trail was developed in three phases:
The MKT Trail (Stewart Rd. to Scott Blvd.) was officially dedicated on October 13, 1985.
The County of Boone developed the section of trail between Scott Blvd. and McBaine.
Buffer Land along the MKT Trail
Friends of the MKT Trail, a nonprofit organization, lobbied and gained support from the City to acquire buffer land along the trail to preserve the beautiful surroundings from development encroachment. Financing was made possible by the passage of a ¼-cent sales tax in 1991. About 350 acres were acquired at a cost of approximately $1.5 million. Forum Nature Area opened in 1996 with a 1.8 mile pedestrian trail as part of the buffer land project.
Pre-Trail Development: Columbia Parks and Recreation staff assessing railroad bridge condition