By Sarah Motter
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 3:11 PM EDT
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - More than $24.8 million has been sent to the State of Kansas to revamp trails along the Flint Hills Trail.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly says on Tuesday, Aug. 16, she joined the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to announce that the Sunflower State has received $24.8 million in federal funding - made possible by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program.
In May, Gov. Kelly said she wrote to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation to support the KDWP’s application for funding to expand the Flint Hills Trail - the longest trail in Kansas and the 8th-longest rail trail in the U.S.
“No other trail connects more communities, cultures, and landscapes in our state than Flint Hills Trail State Park,” Kelly said. “I’m thrilled the RAISE grant selection committee recognized its value to Kansas, and that the 19 rural communities located along the trail will benefit from this project to make the trail safer and more accessible for public recreation.”
Kelly noted that RAISE grants are meant to help urban and rural communities advance projects to modernize infrastructure while focusing on safety, accessibility, affordability and sustainability.
On Aug. 11, Kelly indicated the U.S. DoT announced Kansas State Parks would be awarded a total of $24,821,705 in grant funds for the Flint Hills Trail State Park.
Kelly said a 2021 economic impact study held by Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development and Business Research found that Flint Hills Trail State Park provides more than $1.8 million in economic impact to the state.
Linda Lanterman, Director of Kansas State Parks, said she believes that number will be surpassed quickly.
“Flint Hills Trail State Park has already brought new businesses to Ottawa, and we expect completion of the trail will provide the same benefits to the communities the trail will soon reach,” said Lanterman. “Having now secured this RAISE grant, I’m confident Flint Hills Trail will become a prime destination not only for Kansans but for trail enthusiasts across the nation.”
Organized into 6 phases, the Governor noted that the project will make infrastructure improvements on 40.5 miles of the trail - including opening 27 miles from Council Grove to Herington.
“Flint Hills Trail State Park presents a remarkable opportunity for exercise, nature-viewing, and tourism in some of Kansas’ most beautiful areas,” said Brad Loveless, Secretary for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. “Thanks to this grant, and the amazing partnerships formed since the trail’s inception – especially those with trail volunteers and cooperating landowners and neighbors – we’re now closer to completing Flint Hills Trail.”
Kelly said the funds will be specifically invested in drainage improvements, pipes, culverts, bridges, base improvements, limestone surfacing, fences and gates, bollards, safety improvements and signage.
The Governor also said the improvements will open the full length of the trail’s 118 miles - making it part of 186 miles of directly connected trails in eastern Kansas.
“We’ve been actively developing Flint Hills Trail since 2014, making improvements as funds were available,” said Jeffrey Bender, Regional Supervisor for Kansas State Parks and co-author of the grant application. “Despite the immense amount of work still ahead of us, we’re extremely proud of our accomplishments to date, including obtaining the U.S. Department of Interior’s ‘National Recreation Trail’ designation in 2020 and receiving the Federal Highway Administration’s ‘Environmental Excellence Award’ in 2022. Being awarded this RAISE grant is just further proof of this trail’s regional and national significance.”
“This grant award wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of Kansas State Parks staff, the 12 towns along the trail, landowners, volunteers, Kansas Department of Transportation and National Park Service. We’re extremely grateful for their support,” Bender concluded.
For more information about the Flint Hills Trail State Park, click HERE.
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