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Mobility and Transportation

MT 2.1

Support Rails to Trails Program

Contact the Flint Hills Regional Council to learn more about the Rails to Trails program and how you can help!

Contact the FHRC »

Tool Information


  1. Amenities
  2. Health
  3. Multi-Modal Transportation


Rails to Trails is a program that converts unused railway corridors into multi-use paths for biking, walking, and, in some cases, horseback riding. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a national nonprofit that is a leader in advocating for rails to trails and is supported by many local organizations, such as the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy in the Flint Hills.

Supporting the Rails-to-Trails program can include several actions, such as identifying potential trail projects, advocate for policies to support and fund rails to trails projects at the local, state, and federal level, promoting trails, and organizing volunteers to building and maintain trails.

Photo by MoBikeFed, 2003 (CC BY 2.0)

Photo by Nicolas Henderson, 2012 (CC BY 2.0)


To be competitive in our increasingly knowledge-based economy, regions are developing their natural assets as a way to attract and retain talent.  The Flint Hills has a fantastic natural resource in the Flint Hills Ecoregion, but it remains undeveloped and relatively unknown.  Rails to Trails projects enable residents and visitors to experience the Flint Hills through cycling, hiking, and horseback riding.

In addition to making our region more competitive and attracting visitors, the Rails to Trails program can positively affect health outcomes in Flint Hills communities and help combat the obesity epidemic by encouraging exercise and providing recreational opportunities.

Additional Information

The following resources have more information about rails to trails program


Implementation Strategy

Champions and Partners

  • Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy
  • National Rails to Trails conservancy
  • Local municipalities and Counties
  • State of Kansas


Short (1-3 years)



Cost Details

Rails to Trails conversions are relatively inexpensive infrastructure projects that benefit regional economies by attracting visitor and retaining talented employees and providing opportunities for local businesses along the trails.

  • Legal costs to acquire abandoned railways and repurpose them
  • Infrastructure costs to convert railways to trail ways
  • Remediation costs to clean up environmental contaminants
  • Trail maintenance costs
  • Administrative and marketing costs

Funding Sources

Federal Transportation Alternative grants have been used in the past to fund improvements to the Flint Hills Nature trail.  Kansas Department of Transportation plays a role in allocating these funds.

The national rails-to-trails conservancy and the Kanza Rails-Trails Conservancy also accept donations and volunteer labor that are used to advance rails to trails projects

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

Implementation Plan

  • The task of rails to trails conversion and maintenance is ongoing.
  • Identify and acquire additional abandoned railway right of way to expand and connect trails into a network and bring the trails into major population centers.  

Case Study

Flint Hills Nature Trail

The Flint Hills Nature Tail is a 117 mile trail that stretched from Herington in the West and Osawatomie in the east.  It  passes through Morris and Lyon counties in the Flint Hills Ecoregion.  The trail is the longest in Kansas and the seventh longest rail-trail in the United States. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy acquired the abandoned Council Grove, Osage City & Ottawa Railway and the Missouri Pacific railway line in 1995 and transferred the land to the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy to develop.




The Flint Hills Nature Trail is an example of a rails to trails project in the Flint Hills and is a successful model that can be followed for additional rails-to-trails projects in the Flint Hills.