After a decade of planning and development, the Katy Trail extension towards Kansas City is set to open. A portion of the trail will be open to the public this October and it’s news not only for cyclists, but also for business owners. The Missouri State Parks Department says the Katy Trail supports 367 jobs and generates about $18.5 million in economic impact a year, which could grow.
Over 47 miles will be added to the Katy Trail, expanding it from Windsor to Pleasant Hill. This means more land will be available for potential business to cater to the visitors to the soon-to-be largest railroad trail in the country.
“[The expansion] could double my revenue. Visitors can plan a day trip from Pleasant Hill to Cabooses,” said Damon Cruce, the owner of Cruce’s Cabooses—a bed and breakfast along the Katy Trail. Cruce says he’s mostly excited about the Katy Trail expansion and confident his business will improve with the increase in cyclists along the trail.
“Everybody will benefit. That’s guaranteed,” said Steve Champion, the owner of the Champion Bicycles shops in Boonville and Sedalia. “That 45 miles that will be added from Windsor to Pleasant Hill will greatly expand the trail because Kansas City will be another market people can benefit from.”
Director of State Parks Bill Bryan says the new section of the trail will open opportunities for new businesses as the Katy Trail attracts people from all over the country.
“The Katy Trail is truly an international destination,” Bryan explained. “By extending the trail, it becomes a world class destination.”
Bryan says the state paid over $15.5 million on the trail expansion. However, the return on the investment is expected to be considerable. The Katy Trail currently makes $18 for every dollar the state invests in the trail, according to a study funded by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Boonville Tourism Director, Katie Gibson, agreed and said cyclists are a clientele they don’t want to miss.
“A cyclist’s demographic is very similar to golfers. As far as the age. I think the average age on the trail is even 61. They are retiring. [They are] definitely people that you want to you want to bring to your community and benefit from.”
She also says the expansion will bring small towns in the state back on the map, as a heavier flow of cyclist maycome and stay in those small businesses.
“Our trail count is about 30,000 people who go through the trailhead annually, and that includes local people. Once the extension is added on, and they finish the entire trail, it will be a huge asset and a huge draw for people to come from all over to utilize the trail.”
Cyclist Michele Stone was thrilled with the extension of the trail.
“My oldest lives in Kansas City, so it will be so exciting to be able to hold our bikes up there and ride on the trail,” she said. “It’s a really cool deal to be able to get from one end of the state to another.”
Jackson County legislators want to push for a larger expansion—Kansas City’s Union Station. The plan is to connect the trail to the city through Union Station, so travelers can hop on the trail right after they arrive to Kansas City. There is no word yet on when the latest expansion will be ready.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said the trail would be open in October. Missouri State Parks clarified that only a portion of the trail would be open in October.