Eldon residents concerned over potential railroad sale

Related Story

ELDON- Missouri Rock Island Trail Incorporated (MORIT), a group comprised of local communities along the unused portion of Ameren's Missouri Central Railroad, is making a bid to purchase a 145 mile portion of the line from the energy provider. 

According to Matt Davis, a board member from Eldon, Ameren blocked the group from accessing important documents in order to prevent them from making a bid. However, Ameren opened bidding to MORIT on June 30. 

"MORIT is convinced that keeping the Rock Island intact for public purposes is in the best interest of Ameren ratepayers," the group said in a statement. "The best way to accomplish this end is to allow MORIT to make a proposal, and to evaluate it fairly."

To allow MORIT more time to review purchasing documents, Ameren extended the deadline for groups to submit bids from July 15 to July 31. 

The group is trying to purchase the corridor an build a trail over current railroad path, after the metal and decaying railroad ties are removed. 

The abandoned railroad has become an eye sore and potential hazard for many of the communities it travels through.

"For the past two or three years our community has been working along with other communities along the Rock Island Railroad to clean up our properties," Davis said.

Davis also said Eldon community members cleaned up more than 100 city dump truck loads of trash from the 3.3 mile stretch of railroad which runs through Eldon.

Ameren did give area communities permission to build trails along side the existing railroad, but the idea was not feasible. 

"Within the last month we [MORIT] found out Ameren is actually selling the property," Davis said. "Our group didn't know anything about it."

Davis said members of MORIT are worried Ameren has been working with a Utah based scrapping company and if they win the bid it might hurt their local communities.  

"Our concern is that the salvage company will just pull up the railroad, sell it, make as much money off the steel as they can and leave our communities," Davis said.

Davis acknowledge Ameren has the right to make as much money as possible, but he expressed hope they would take a lower dollar amount if it meant additional trails and parks throughout Missouri.

"How great would it be if we could connect the Rock Island Trial with the Katy Trail and make it just one of the best trails in the state of Missouri," Davis said. 

A 2011 report from Missouri State Parks said the Katy Trail brought in more than $18 million during the fiscal year.