What Does the ABC Trails Plan Mean For Kansas?

With the recent approval of the ABC Trails Plan, Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford counties have become the first rural Kansas counties to collaborate on an active transportation plan.

The plan is comprehensive and ambitious, featuring both short-term and long-term projects, consisting of bike routes, rail-trails, singletrack trails, scenic and historic bicycle touring and bikepacking routes, and connections to other regional, state, and national trail and route networks.

Here are some quick project highlights from the ABC Trails Plan:

  • Bicycle routes connecting the three largest communities in the three counties: Iola, Fort Scott, and Pittsburg.
  • An alternate route for the Trans-America Trail (US Bicycle Route 76), which would connect the cross-country route to the Prairie Spirit Trail (which connects to the Flint Hills Trail, and which will someday connect to Kansas City, Lawrence, and Topeka).
  • Signs to mark the bike routes and educate traffic about the Kansas Safe Passing laws.
  • Completion of the Watco Trail in Crawford County, and improvements to the Lehigh Portland Trails system in Allen County.
  • Routefinding for the future US Bicycle Route 55.
  • Creation of a bicycle route paralleling the Frontier Military Historic Byway.
  • The creation of bikepacking routes following the Zebulon Pike National Historic Trail, and the historic King of Trails and Jefferson Highways.
  • The creation of a scenic bikepacking route following the Neosho River from its headwaters near Council Grove, into Oklahoma, where it becomes the Grand River.
  • Potential future rail-trails in Allen and Bourbon counties.
  • Potential new singletrack trails in all three counties.
  • Connections to the Katy Trail and the Western Sky Trail.

All of these are, of course, just concepts and may or may not come to fruition as visualized, or at all. Time will tell, but envisioning the future is the first step in making it real.

Some of these potential trails and routes in the ABC Trails Plan were first suggested as part of the Quad-State Trail Plan, the 2013 Kansas State Rail-to-Trails Plan, and the “Governor’s Challenge” report from the Travel Industry Association of Kansas, which recommended building trails along Kansas scenic and historic byways, and along historic Kansas trail routes.

So, does the ABC Trails Plan have any broader implications beyond Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford counties? The Sunflower Foundation, which funded the plan development, certainly hopes so. At the February 12th celebration, Sunflower’s Senior Program Officer, Elizabeth Burger, said that she expects the ABC Plan to become a model that other rural counties will replicate and expand upon, and that collaboration across jurisdictions is an important way that the Kansas trail network will continue to grow.

“As a health foundation, the Sunflower Foundation supports public trails of all types and their potential to make outdoor physical activity accessible to all ages, backgrounds and abilities” she said. “The evidence keeps growing for the physical and mental health benefits of being active outdoors – but trails can also contribute to a community’s well-being in other ways, such as increased social cohesion and economic vitality. We applaud the ABC Master Trail Plan for the innovative model that embraces all these aspects, and hope it will become a case study for other Kansas communities to follow.”

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

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