OSAWATOMIE — A train rumbled past as Gov. Laura Kelly, Mayor Mark Govea and other state and local dignitaries prepared to cut the ribbon on recent improvements at Mile Zero of the Flint Hills Trail in Osawatomie on Wednesday morning, Oct. 7.
The train was a fitting sight as community and state officials acknowledged all those who had a hand in making improvements to a two-mile stretch of the trail that established the eastern terminus near the Karl E. Cole Sports Complex.
The 117-mile Flint Hills Trail State Park stretches from Osawatomie to Herington and passes through five counties and several communities along the way. The trail is built on an old rail corridor and is the seventh-longest rail-trail in America. The rail-trail generally follows the Santa Fe National Historic Trail route and was designated a state park in 2018.
The enhancements at Mile Zero will improve trail access for pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians who want to enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities in Miami County and other points west.
“Public access to trails, parks, and other greenspaces plays a key role in growing economic development opportunities, promoting healthier lifestyles, and improving quality-of-life for Kansans statewide,” Kelly said. “I commend the city of Osawatomie and the local Flint Hills Trail Taskforce for their work to boost visitor turnout at trails and other greenspaces in their community.”
Joining Gov. Kelly were guest speakers David Toland, Secretary of Commerce, and Brad Loveless, Secretary of Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
“It’s undeniable that Flint Hills Trail is among one of the most unique trails in the nation, and part of what makes this trail so special is the valuable relationships that have formed as a result of its use,” Secretary Loveless said. “Flint Hills Trail has brought together Kansas landowners, counties, and trail users for a common purpose, adding incredible value to the communities and businesses this trail touches along the way.”
Joining Mayor Govea were George Pretz, county commissioner; Doug Walker, vice president of the Kanza Rails-Trails Conservancy, and Dr. Jeff Walmann, a city council member and chairman of the Osawatomie Trail Task Force which formed in October 2018 for the purpose of establishing the trailhead at Osawatomie.
In his remarks, Dr. Walmann thanked the public and private entities that had contributed funds for the project — to the tune of more than $350,000 — and companies and individuals who helped the city complete the work.
Walmann credited Walker, an Osawatomie resident and former state senator, for being the guiding influence in establishing the rail-trail.
Walmann said without Walker there would not be a Flint Hills Trail. The ribbon-cutting ceremony included the unveiling of a sign at Mile Zero designating it Walker Station in his honor.
Mayor Govea talked about the significance of the trailhead to the community.
“There’s a Chinese proverb that I’m particularly fond of that seems to fit our event today,” Govea said. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Here at Mile Zero is where that first step begins on the Flint Hills Trail.”