OSAWATOMIE – Gov. Laura Kelly plans to be in town next week to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Flint Hills Trail's recently completed “Mile Zero” trailhead in Osawatomie, the city announced Friday, Oct. 2, in a news release.
Because of limited crowd capacity and the need for social distancing, the city has extended invitations to the ceremony rather than opening it up to a general audience. The event is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7. The trailhead is located at the southwest corner of the Karl E. Cole Sports Complex.
Joining the governor at the ribbon-cutting will be Secretary of Commerce David Toland and Brad Loveless, secretary of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The three state dignitaries plan to address the intimate gathering.
The trail, which has been designated as the Flint Hills Trail State Park, ended about 300 feet west of USD 367 property behind Trojan Elementary, with no immediate public access. The closest public access point was about one mile west of town where it crosses John Brown Highway.
The Osawatomie City Council created the Osawatomie Trails Task Force in October 2018 with the task of connecting the existing trail to the sports complex and to develop a trailhead at the complex. Work, such as establishing a kiosk and permanent restroom facilities at the site, remains to be completed, but the trail is open to the public. Councilman Jeff Walmann chairs the task force.
The trail provides biking, running, walking and horseback riding opportunities.
An arch-shaped “Flint Hills Trail” gateway was anchored in at the eastern-most point of the trail in mid-July.
Doug Walker, president of Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy and a task force member, Mayor Mark Govea, Walmann and others were on hand to watch the sign being installed at the foot of the trail.
Walker, a former state senator from Osawatomie, has been the driving force behind establishing an eastern terminus for the Flint Hills Nature Trail in Osawatomie. For his efforts, Walker was named the 2019 Osawatomie Citizen of the Year during the Osawatomie Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner last November.
The 119-mile Flint Hills Nature Trail is reported to be the seventh longest rail-trail in the United States. The trail is on Union Pacific/Missouri Pacific right-of-way that was rail-banked in 1996 for the specific purpose of using the corridor as a rail-trail.
Mayor Govea said the archway was placed as the zero-mile marker of the trail which will eventually stretch westward to Herington, Kan. About 93 miles of the trail is completed, from Osawatomie to Council Grove.
“Being the furthest eastern terminal for this trail will make it the jumping off and on point for most people in the Kansas City area, which should bring renewed economic activity to our little town,” Govea said at the gathering to watch the archway being installed. “Walking and biking are keys to healthy living. Having a beautiful trail right here gives people of all ages an opportunity to get outside and be active. This will be great for our community and community health.”
In the news release Friday, city officials thanked the Osawatomie Trail Task Force for its work, as well as other dedicated volunteers and those who made monetary donations and helped secure grants for the project. They also thanked the community for supporting the trail.
The trail has already been active. Recent events on the trail include a Stop-and-Go roundtrip ride from Ottawa to Osawatomie; a “Stomp Out Suicide” charity walk, and the Kansas Cannonball 500, which is a 550-mile gravel bike tour that stretches across eastern Kansas every September.