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ABC Trails Plan Could Boost Prairie Spirit Trail Connections

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The ABC Trails Plan was recently adopted in Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford Counties. The three rural counties collaborated on the active transportation plan to improve connections between their communities, and provide a roadmap for future trail development.

Allen County is located at the southern end of the Prairie Spirit Trail, with Bourbon County to the east, and Crawford County to the southeast. Allen County, in particular, has been aggressively developing trails (such as the Southwind Rail Trail and the Lehigh Portland Trails) over the past decade, while both Bourbon and Crawford have a number of existing trails, with more on the way.

The ABC Trails Plan envisions a number of potential projects that could connect to the Prairie Spirit Trail:

  • Bicycle routes between Iola and Fort Scott, and between Iola and Pittsburg. These routes would use primarily low-traffic paved rural secondary roads, and would provide connections from those cities to the Prairie Spirit Trail in Iola.
  • US Bicycle Route 76 Alternate Route: Currently, US Bicycle Route 76 (also known as the Trans-America Trail) passes through Pittsburg and Chanute, south of the Prairie Spirit Trail and the Southwind Rail Trail. The “alternate route” would guide cross-country riders through Iola, where they could connect to the Prairie Spirit Trail.
  • US Bicycle Route 55: This route is a proposed part of the U.S. Bicycle Route System, and would run north-south through eastern Kansas. The route has not yet been determined, but would presumably utilize the entirety of the Prairie Spirit Trail.
  • The King of Trails Bikepacking Route would roughly follow the historic “King of Trails” highway from Canada to Mexico. Would presumably utilize the entirety of the Prairie Spirit Trail.
  • The Western Sky Connector would link the Western Sky Trail in Chanute (planned, but not yet built) to the Southwind Rail Trail (and on to the Prairie Spirit Trail) via low-traffic paved rural secondary roads. Ultimately, the Western Sky is envisioned to connect to Wichita, meaning that someone could easily ride from Ottawa to Wichita via trails and routes.
  • The Neosho Grand Trail would roughly follow the Neosho River from its headwaters near Council Grove, into Oklahoma, where it becomes the Grand River. The Neosho Grand Trail would intersect with the Prairie Spirit Trail in Iola.
  • The Zebulon Pike Historic Trail would follow the route of the 1806 expedition led by Zebulon Pike , from St. Louis to Pikes Peak in Colorado. The Zebulon Pike Historic Trail would intersect with the Prairie Spirit Trail in Iola.
  • The Mo-Pac Trail would follow the old Missouri Pacific Railroad corridor from Iola west into Bourbon County.
  • The Katy Trail Connection would provide an on-road route between Iola and Clinton MO (which is the western end of Missouri’s Katy Trail) via Fort Scott and Nevada MO.

When these new routes and trails come online, they will exponentially increase the options for Prairie Spirit Trail travelers, as well as exposing cross-country bicycle tourists to the wonders of the Prairie Spirit Trail.

The ABC Trails Plan is a major milestone in expanding the impact of the Prairie Spirit Trail on Kansas tourism, especially if the multi-county active transportation process is replicated around the state.

Learn more from Thrive Allen County: ABC Trails: Comprehensive Active Transportation Plan Adopted for Allen, Bourbon, and Crawford Counties or download the full ABC Trails Plan PDF.

Randy Rasa
Follow Randy Rasa:
Randy runs Bike Prairie Spirit, as well as the Kansas Cyclist web site, which is 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.
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