Six Miles Added to Osage Trail (OK)
Tulsa, OK, 4/3/02 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has conveyed over six miles of railroad right-of-way to the Tulsa County Parks Department, which will preserve the corridor as a scenic, recreational trail. TPL recently acquired the segment of the inactive Osage short-line railroad corridor from the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (SK&O), of Pittsburg, Kansas.
The Tulsa County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the project today, authorizing the Parks Department to acquire the property and develop the trail, from Tulsa city limits to the Tulsa and Osage County line just north of Sperry. “This is a great opportunity to preserve a greenway through a very scenic part of our county,” said Tulsa County Commissioner Wilbert Collins. “We’re glad to be working with TPL to make it happen.”
This project is the second phase in a 34-mile rail-to-trail conversion, connecting downtown Tulsa to Birch Lake, in Osage County. Last March, TPL conveyed the first four miles of the corridor to the City of Tulsa, which has begun trail development.
“We’re excited to continue the good work we began last year, and again, we’re very grateful to the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad for its generosity and support of the project,” said Robert Gregory, TPL’s state director.
In 2000, the SK&O petitioned the federal government to abandon the line, which has been inactive for over three years. TPL worked closely with the Indian Nation Council of Governments (INCOG) to explore the feasibility of preserving the corridor as a scenic trail, and to gauge public support for the effort.
After several meetings and tours of the line, TPL petitioned the federal Surface Transportation Board for permission to negotiate a useful alternative to abandonment. The government granted TPL’s request in November of 2000.
“This trail will be a great amenity for Tulsa County,” said County Parks Director Richard Bales. “We’re going to work with the other jurisdictions along the line to make a first-class trail.”
The railroad company recently salvaged its rails and ties, leaving the ballast as a foundation for the trail. “People can walk the trail now,” said Bales. “It’s already a great walking surface.”
No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail, however, Bales cautioned. “Trail users need make sure that they respect the rights of adjacent landowners.”
The Osage railroad corridor, part of the old Midland Valley line, is an important component of the Tulsa Metro Trails Master Plan, which anticipates over 300 miles of trails and greenways.
TPL Project Manager, Jack Blair, said that the Osage Prairie Trail project is intended to “replicate the tremendous success of similar rail-to-trail projects across the country,” such as the 225-mile Katy Trail that crosses rural Missouri, and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, connecting Washington D.C. to rural Virginia. “These projects were met with early skepticism, but have become very popular with locals and visitors alike.”
The Katy Trail is now a popular state park (www.mostateparks.com/katytrail.htm), and the W&OD Trail is a regional destination operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (www.nvrpa.org/wod.html). Both trails have developed rules and design features to ensure that trail use is compatible with the rural areas they cross. The rural landowners along the routes are now the trails’ most active supporters. For example, local trail advocates have developed trail “Friends” organizations, to actively promote the success of the trails (www.wodfriends.org).
Although the Osage Prairie Trail will be smaller in scale than these examples, Blair predicts similar success. “The trail will be a source of pride for the communities along the line, such as Sperry, Skiatook, Avant and Barnsdall.” “First and foremost, it has to be an amenity for the people living along the route.”
Since 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.5 million acres in 45 states -from expansive recreation areas, to historic homesteads, to urban pocket parks.
TPL’s Oklahoma State Office was established in January 2001. The state office is located at 403 S. Cheyenne, Suite 300, Tulsa, OK 74103, and can be reached at (918) 587-2190.