Soon after its grand opening in Pleasant Hill last weekend — poof! — Missouri’s Rock Island Trail State Park vanished.
Both its name and status as a separate state park went away, anyway.
Something of an on-the-spot rebranding occurred Saturday afternoon, after Gov. Jay Nixon dedicated the 47.5-mile path.
Before darkness fell, an aide to Nixon announced that the trail would henceforth be known as the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park.
On Monday afternoon came this explanation from Nixon spokesman Scott Holste for why Rock Island Trail State Park had ceased to exist:
“The Katy Trail has such a high name recognition and great image — and has had for more than 25 years — that it was logical to continue building on that with the section of the trail to the Kansas City area, and referring to that as the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park.”
If that doesn’t trip off the tongue, just call it the Katy Trail. Many thought of it that way during construction.
However, the name change for the Katy connector to metro Kansas City came as a surprise to Pleasant Hill officials. Only two weeks ago, the state had asked that the city’s signage on its own trail connections to the new bikeway reflect its then official designation, Rock Island Trail State Park.
After all, the state’s website had identified the trail as a separate state park during its nearly eight-year development stage.
But before Pleasant Hill had gotten around to acting on the request — the city’s signs had referred to it as the Katy all along — the Jeff City switcheroo made that unnecessary. On Monday, the Rock Island Trail State Park web page was taken down and replaced with a Rock Island Spur page instead.
“I’m all for whatever makes it easiest for people to recognize it as the Katy’s connection to this area,” said Shelby Teufel, Pleasant Hill’s city administrator.
One potential benefit is that the added mileage allows the state to once again claim that the Katy Trail is the longest rails-to-trails conversion project in the nation. At 238 miles, it was No. 1 for many years, but was later surpassed by the 253-mile John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Washington.
Counting the spur, the Katy Trail is now 286 miles.
“However it’s characterized,” said Brandi Horton at the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, “it’s the longest continuous rails to trail system, and longest connected one.”
As for Rock Island Trail State Park, don’t write the name off just yet. The state hopes to construct a trail on the 144 miles of inactive Rock Island Railroad corridor east of Windsor, where the main Katy Trail and its new spur meet.
Said Holste: “We’re planning to have more news before Christmas on the section that goes east from Windsor on the southern route, so keep an eye out for that.”
Gotta have a name, right?