Though they still have a long way to go, area proponents of a biking and hiking trail are stepping up their efforts to get one extended from Berryton to Clinton Lake and ultimately to Lawrence.
"It's all coming together. This is just one of the last pieces," said Clark Coan, a Lawrence resident and member of the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy.
If, indeed, it comes together, the Landon Trail would be one of several proposed and existing trails that would interconnect and weave their way into the Kansas City metropolitan area and on to the more famous Katy Trail in Missouri.
"I think it will be really popular and get a lot of usage," bicycle enthusiast Eric Struckhoff said. "A lot of people use the trails that are in Lawrence."
Struckhoff, chairman of the Lawrence-Douglas County Bicycle Advisory Committee, has been working with the conservancy to plan for the trail extension.
Earlier this year, resolutions of support for the project were approved by the Topeka City Council and the Lawrence City Commission because the trail would be a path that would link the two cities. In the near future, support will be sought from the Douglas County Commission, Struckhoff said.
A new 15-mile trail would link the Landon Trail with the South Lawrence Trafficway hike and bike path and the new Sanders Mound path near Clinton Lake Overlook. Other trails would tie in with a proposed trail along Kansas Highway 10 east of Lawrence.
But it is a complicated project that could take years to complete. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will have to become involved, and their approval - as well as the general public's - will be needed.
Managers at Clinton Lake for the corps and the parks department are just learning about it.
"It's so preliminary right now the only thing I can tell you is we would be very receptive to meeting with them," said Lew Ruona, operations manager at Clinton Lake. "It is going to take a tremendous amount of planning."
John Silovsky, regional public land manager for the wildlife and parks department, agreed.
"We're just going to have to sit down and have a little brainstorming session," he said.
The proposed trail generally would be 8 to 10 feet wide and covered by concrete or crushed limestone. It would pass through a variety of terrain from its start at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka to Berryton.
From Berryton, it will run about nine miles to the Richland area at the west edge of the Clinton wildlife land area. That portion should be complete by the end of the year, Coan said.
The wildlife land is part of the corps territory leased to the wildlife and parks department, which manages it.
The conservancy, which manages trails made from former rail lines, owns the trail up to Richland. Another entity would be needed to manage the trail through the federal property.
The cost for surfacing a trail is about $10,000 per mile, Coan said. Conservancy members volunteer their time to maintain it. No public funding is sought for the trail. Instead it will come from private donations and federal transportation enhancement grants, Coan said.
The exact path of the trail through the area at the south edge of Clinton Lake still needs to be determined, and that decision won't come easily or quickly. The area is federally designated for wildlife, not recreation or multipurpose uses, so some change would be necessary, Ruona said. Moreover, the terrain is rugged.
"You are going to have a lot of ravines, a lot of culverts," Ruona said.
Although the trail likely will take years to complete, it will be worth it, Struckhoff said.
"I like being outside," he said. "You're roaming out in nature and you can just relax."