The mission of Friends of Rock Island Trail State Park (FoRIT) is to assist in the development of the Rock Island corridor into a premier Missouri State Park.


Our vision is to partner with state agencies, trail communities and organizations, advocacy groups, businesses, landowners, and citizens to promote, preserve, and develop the Missouri Rock Island Trail State Park.


Vision of economic development and outdoor recreation
Our history begins in the early 1900s when The Rock Island Railway was built. Small towns developed along its length. When rail traffic was discontinued in the 1980s, many of the communities also began to decline. The vision to turn this unused resource into an easily accessible walking and bicycling trail begins. Examples of similar projects across the nation and Missouri have proven that rails to trails projects greatly benefit communities. Because rail corridors generally have a 2% or less grade, trails built on former rail beds are easy for anyone to use. Rail trails also provide safe routes for children to walk and bike to school. They provide economic opportunities as hikers and bikers purchase food, rent lodgings, and take advantage of other local venues. Trails increase land values along the trail. All these benefits and more are possible when the Rock Island Corridor is converted to a hiking and biking trail.

Preserving the Missouri Rock Island Corridor
Preserving the Rock Island Corridor for interim trail use has been a dream of many since the 1990’s when the first attempt to rail bank the corridor was almost successful. Subsequently, the corridor was sold in 1999 to Missouri Central Railroad (MCRR) a subsidiary of Ameren. It was not until 2014 that the corridor again became available for possible rail banking.  In 2012 citizens in Gerald, Rosebud, Bland, and Owensville formed the Meramec Regional Rock Island Coalition to investigate converting approximately 35 miles of the inactive Rock Island Corridor to a walking and biking trail. At about the same time, citizens in Eldon organized the Eldon Task Force and obtained permission from MCRR to build a trail next to the railroad bed. Volunteers in Eldon removed 110 loads of trash and vegetation from the 3-mile corridor within the Eldon city limits in preparation for building a trail.

Missouri Rock Island, Inc Formed
Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. was formed as a 501c3 in 2014 and the first board of directors was elected. With many communities along the entire corridor interested in a recreational trail, MORIT very quickly expanded to represent the interests of all communities along the Rock Island Corridor. In October 2014, Ameren Missouri agreed to work with MO State Parks to rail bank the Rock Island Corridor from Windsor to Beaufort for trail use. A 47+ mile section from Windsor to Pleasant Hill was already in the process of being rail banked and transferred to MO State Parks. The Rock Island Trail which intersects the Katy Trail at Windsor opened December 2016 and connects  Kansas City to the Katy Trail, where travelers can go all the way to St. Charles.

 Windsor to Pleasant Hill section Completed
Forty-Seven miles of Rock Island Trail State Park was opened December 2016 as a spur of the Katy Trail State Park. The rails and ties of the Rock Island Railroad were removed from the 144-mile corridor in summer 2018. Missouri State Parks was poised to accept Ameren’s gift of the 144-mile corridor in December 2019. Through the persistence of many dedicated volunteers and by the generous investments by individuals and organizations, MoRIT has earned respect in regard to supporting the development of the Rock Island Corridor.  Additionally, MORIT has received support from Rails to Trails Conservancy, a national trail advocacy group based in Washington DC as well as several statewide conservation, biking, and hiking groups and individuals.

Rock Island Trail State Park established on June 30th, 2023
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources announced the establishment of Rock Island Trail State Park, which officially became the 93rd state park in Missouri on June 30th, 2023. This newly designated state park spans a significant section of the former corridor of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, providing a captivating blend of history, natural beauty, and recreational opportunities for visitors.

Rock Island Trail State Park encompasses the former Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park, featuring an impressive 47.5-mile developed trail that stretches from Pleasant Hill to Windsor, Missouri. This scenic trail offers a unique experience for hikers, bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the picturesque landscapes of the region while traversing the historic path once traveled by the iconic Rock Island train.  Furthermore, an additional 144 miles of undeveloped corridor extends from Windsor to Beaufort, Missouri, promising future expansions and opportunities for development. Although this section remains closed to the public at present, plans are underway to transform it into an equally captivating and accessible trail that will further enhance the overall experience of Rock Island Trail State Park. In a promising development, another 12.6-mile section of an active rail line from Beaufort to Union has been made available for development.

Friends of Rock Island Trail State Park formed
Recognizing the change in focus from acquiring the Rock Island corridor to the development of the Rock Island Trail State Park, the Board of Directors changed the organization’s name from MORIT, INC to Friends of Rock Island Trail State Park or ForIT.  Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. dba Friends of Rock Island Trail State Park (FoRIT) is a 501c3 non-profit coalition of citizens and communities. Our mission is to support the development of the Rock Island Trail State Park.