With nearly 1,000 miles of trails, Missouri State Parks has something for everyone. I say this, not only as the director of Missouri State Parks, but also as one who truly enjoys the outdoor adventures available on our trails. From the paved trails that make a great spot for a sunset stroll to a challenging hike through the wilderness, there are options for all ages and activity levels to enjoy. Our trails are not just for walking; visitors can enjoy a water adventure on our aquatic trails, a fun day riding on our ATV trails, a day bike riding on the Katy Trail, or a horseback experience on our equestrian trails. A historic journey is also a possibility as many of the state’s trails trace their origin to the foundations of our state as the “Gateway to the West.”
Missouri State Parks recognizes that trails are valuable, and not just for their natural elements. Spending time on a trail is a great experience with a multitude of physical and mental benefits. Trails are like a free tonic for the mind, body and soul that makes our lives richer and happier. According to a recently conducted study on the Katy Trail, the nation’s longest rails to trails project, they are also good economically. The recent study found that trail-related expenditures by customers to the businesses along the trail generate nearly $18.5 million a year in economic impact for the state, support 367 jobs, and make an overall economic impact of $8.2 million to the local trail communities. For every dollar spent by Missouri State Parks to operate Katy Trail State Park, Missouri’s economy saw an $18 return on investment.
Managing and maintaining our trails in Missouri State Parks is an ongoing effort that is made possible by the efforts of staff, supporters, and trail users. In addition, the State Parks Youth Corps (SPYC), a job initiative that started in 2010, has put many hours into maintaining our trails. The “SPYC” program gives youth ages 17-23 the opportunity to learn valuable job skills while enhancing our state parks and historic sites. No other state has even gotten close to devoting a similar level of “youth power” to improve their trails. This innovative program and the efforts of all of those involved with Missouri’s trails helped to make our system stand out as best in the nation. In April 2013, I was proud to accept the Best Trails State award from American Trails on behalf of Missouri. Our state earned this honor because our trails highlight the natural and cultural wonders of the Show-Me State and provide a wide array of recreational opportunities.
With so many trail opportunities, I am excited to join Governor Jay Nixon and complete 100 miles on the state’s trails. Please join me in participating in 100 Missouri Miles and enjoying Missouri’s award-winning trail system!
Director of Missouri State Parks