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Natural Systems


Advocate for Parks & Trails

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Tool Information


  1. Amenities
  2. Health
  3. Tourism


The Flint Hills Nature Trail (Kanza Rails – Trails Conservancy), the Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area, and the Kansas River National Water Trail are outstanding programs to connect people with the unique habitat of the Flint Hills Tallgrass Region and the prairie of central and eastern Kansas. Growing these programs to connect more easements of land and water, can increase the investment in and general awareness and appreciation of this important natural resource.  (See Natural Resources – Encourage Productive Conservation Programs, NS2.0; See Cultural Systems – Develop Tribal Cultural Assets, CS3.0) 




Individuals and businesses making decisions to locate in the Flint Hills have many criteria to consider. Not the least of which is quality of life for themselves and the employees they wish to attract and retain. While Kansas is not known for a dramatic landscape, or crowd attracting seasonal sports such as skiing, the serene beauty of the prairie can also be an exciting place to explore, if it is accessible and touted. Increasing the potential for people to engage nature on foot, bike, boat, and horseback is key to attracting and retaining vibrant young families who enjoy the outdoors for education, recreation, health benefits, and the independent exploration opportunities to connect with their unique region on an everyday or every week basis. 

Additional Information

Implementation Strategy

Champions and Partners

  • Kansas Land Trust
  • Sunflower Rails-Trails Conservancy, Inc.
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Kaw Nation
  • Osage Nation
  • Travel and Tourism of Kansas – Travel KS
  • Symphony in the Flint Hills
  • Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Flint Hills Legacy Conservation Area
  • National Parks Service
  • Country Boys Carriage and Prairie Adventures
  • Flint Hills Overland Wagon Train Trips
  • Flint Hills Ranch Tours
  • Flint Hills Adventures – Jan Jantzen
  • The Pilgrim Ranch Retreat, LLC
  • Cedar Bluff Guest Ranch


Short (1-3 years)



Cost Details

  • Purchase easements from property owners to connect existing trails.
  • Build safe trails (and or docks/boat ramps) with signage for walking, biking, horseback riding or boating.
  • As the park and trail system grows, amenities such as camp sites and observation towers would be desirable additions.

Funding Sources

  • Recreational Trails Program funds from the Federal Highway Administration


  • Land and Water Conservation Fund
  • TIGER grants
  • Federal Highway Administration, Transportation Enhancement Activities funding
  • Public Lands Highways Discretionary Funds
  • Local and State Health Departments are funding bike and pedestrian programs


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.

The Kansas Land Trust, the Nature Conservancy and the Legacy Conservation Area, among others, have long been encouraging the use of conservation easements to protect the prairie ecosystem of the Flint Hills. In partnership with Sunflower Rails-Trails Conservancy, Travel KS, and the Kaw and Osage Nations, the conservation agencies can analyze and prioritize the most appropriate connections/expansions and amenities across the Flint Hills and create 3-5 year capital plans for funding and construction of these community amenities. Annual or semi-annual retreats to create action plans and clarify each organization’s responsibilities will be key to progress and accountability.

Case Study

Industrial Heartlands Trails Coalition


A shared vision for a thriving region


Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC), has taken a leadership role in the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition, a regional trail project which will eventually bridge borders in 53 counties in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York through a 1,600-mile off-road trail network.

A vision born from the Power of 32, the regional trail project aims to connect major destinations in each of the five states, ultimately becoming the largest destination trail network in the country. Pittsburgh is serving as the network’s hub, with trails radiating out of the metro area to connect to Cleveland, Morgantown, Parkersburg, Ashtabula, Erie and Harrisburg.

RTC is leading the formation of working groups of stakeholders within the network, as well as collecting trail traffic/use data. The goal of the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition is to have the off-road trail network completed by 2030.

The Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition is supported by a variety of partners, including the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the George Gund Foundation and the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (U.S. National Park Service).

From Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition



The creation of a multistate coalition relates to the complexities of the Kansas, Oklahoma region including two Native American Nations within its area. Many varied landowner priorities are coalesced in the greater vision of this trail network project.