A sign points to the Flint Hills Nature Trail where it crosses John Brown Highway about one mile west of the Osawatomie city limits. The Osawatomie Trails Task Force is spearheading a construction project to establish the eastern trailhead at the Karl E. Cole Sports Complex in Osawatomie.

OSAWATOMIE – Osawatomie’s Trails Task Force is $10,000 closer to establishing an eastern terminus for the Flint Hills Nature Trail in Osawatomie.

Miami County commissioners recently approved the county donation to help construct the trailhead at the Karl E. Cole Sports Complex. The project is already underway to connect the community to the nature trail, which currently ends about 300 feet west of USD 367 property behind Trojan Elementary, with no immediate public access.

The closest public access point is about one mile west of town where it crosses John Brown Highway.

“It’s probably about a $300,000 endeavor,” Commissioner George Pretz said of the Osawatomie project. “They (Trails Task Force) have requested any assistance from Miami County they can possible get.”

Pretz represents the community of Osawatomie on the County Commission and serves on the task force. He provides commissioners with updates on the trailhead’s progress.

The 119-mile-long Flint Hills Nature Trail is the longest rail-trail in Kansas and the seventh longest in the United States, according to Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy. The trail is on Union Pacific/Missouri Pacific right-of-way that was acquired by the conservancy in 1996 for the specific purpose of using the corridor as a nature trail.

The state Legislature made the trail a Kansas state park last summer.

“We get a token of liquor tax for parks, and it certainly qualifies as a park,” Pretz said.

County Commission Chair Phil Dixon endorsed the project, as did the rest of the commissioners who voted unanimously to approve the donation.

“I think we all agree it’s a good project,” Dixon said.

Doug Walker, president of the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy and a former state senator from Osawatomie, recently reported about $250,000 had been raised for construction of the trailhead. Fund-raising efforts are continuing.

Jeff Walmann, chairman of the task force formed by the city of Osawatomie in October 2018, told his fellow City Council members in late August he was pleased with the progress of the work thus far.

Osawatomie Mayor Mark Govea, in a follow-up letter, and Pretz thanked the commissioners.

“We’re very appreciative of the support,” Pretz said.

News Editor Doug Carder can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or doug.carder@miconews.com.

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