In Marysville, Kansas, members of the local FFA (Future Farmers of America) are helping to build the Blue River Rail Trail, despite opposition from local and statewide farm organizations. Is this perhaps a hopeful sign, an indication that the next generation of rural residents are embracing all that trails have to offer?
The Blue River Rail Trail is a rails-to-trails project that is converting an out-of-service railbanked Union Pacific railroad line into a public recreational trail between Marysville and Lincoln, Nebraska, while maintaining the right-of-way for possible future rail use. This trail is being built largely by volunteers, with private funds and grants, and no public tax support.
Yet despite the well-documented benefits of rail-trails — recreation, health, tourism, economic impact, and improving the attractiveness of a community to active and creative people — many agribusiness groups have worked tirelessly to impede development of rails-to-trails projects in Kansas, through legislation (Farm Bureau tries to kill Rails to Trails in Kansas, Kansas Rail-Trails Threatened By Proposed Bill), lawsuits (Opposition to Rails to Trails finds its home in Kansas, Landowners File Nationwide Rails-to-Trails Lawsuit), and advocacy (Kansas Farm Bureau: “We support repeal of the National Trails System Act authorizing railbanking and the conversion of rail beds for trail development. Returning corridor no longer used for rail service to the underlying landowner is a top priority.“).
But maybe things are changing with the next generation.
The Marysville Advocate reports:
Greathouse noted that the FFA has been helpful in several work projects in Kansas and Nebraska.
“When you get ownership created by volunteerism, it really helps the projects.”
The nonprofit trail organizations do much of the planning, but board members are just a part of what has become a wide network of volunteers who have pulled off construction on trails, bridges and rest stops.
The Marysville High School FFA chapter has been responsible for the building of several projects along the Blue River Rail Trail, including benches, bridge work and a new sign/bulletin board kiosk at the trailhead.
Volunteer adults in the community have also spent several hours on weekends putting in posts, signage and gates in addition to the trail construction and bridge rail re-building projects.
Rail-trails have so much to offer rural communities, and trails make such a positive impact on so many lives, that it’s difficult to see how everyone won’t, eventually, come to the conclusion that trails are an unmitigated “good thing”, and should be enthusiastically supported, not opposed.
Maybe, hopefully, we’re beginning to see some of that attitude in Marysville.
Thank you, Marysville High School FFA, for leading the way!