Baldwin City to request that county contribute $94,000 for trail easement
Baldwin City Administrator Glenn Rodden will ask the Douglas County Commission to provide $94,167 to help with his city’s purchase of an 11-mile trail easement along the Midland Railway.
In April, the Baldwin City Council approved the $345,000 purchase of the easement from Baldwin City to Ottawa. The city bought the easement so that the tourist excursion Midland Railway could repair a section of track about five miles south of Baldwin City that was washed away during an August 2017 flash flood. Midland train rides and those of the Kansas Belle Dinner Train, which uses the Midland tracks, have been limited to about 10-mile round trips since the flooding.
Rodden said Monday that the city had already paid Midland $345,000 for the easement. It will recoup some of that cost from commitments of $25,000 from Mid America Bank of Baldwin City and the Baldwin City Economic Development Corporation and $12,500 from the Douglas County Economic Development Corporation.
The proposal Rodden will share with county commissioners Wednesday would have Douglas County provide $94,167 in installments of $18,833 over the next five years. In a memo to the commissioners, Rodden wrote that he was making the same request of the Franklin County Commission. If both counties approve Rodden’s request, Baldwin City’s total cost for the easement would also be $94,167.
A.J. Stevens, Midland executive director, said Monday that the Midland track repairs were nearly complete and that Midland Railway and Kansas Belle Dinner Train would soon start using the entire route to Ottawa.
Baldwin City and Douglas County benefit from the sales tax generated from the 25,000 tourists who take excursion rides on the Midland Railway annually, Rodden said. The benefit for Franklin County would be an increase in tourism from a future trail that would link to the existing 51-mile Prairie Spirit Trail State Park, which connects Ottawa to Iola, and the 117-mile Flint Hills Nature Trail that runs from Osawatomie to Council Grove through Ottawa.
Developing the trail on the Midland easement will take a further investment of about $1 million, Stevens estimated when the Baldwin City Council approved the easement purchase.
It will take years to raise the money to develop the trail, but committees in Douglas and Franklin counties will soon be formed to start planning for the trail, Rodden said.
In other business, the commission will have a 6 p.m. public hearing to consider a conditional use permit request from Mary and Jay Bessey to open an event center at the former Marion Springs Elementary School in Worden. According to a memo from Mary Miller, county planner, the applicants plan to host reunions, weddings, receptions and other gatherings at the old school, as well as make classrooms available for conferences and classes.
The request comes to commissioners with the recommendation of approval from staff and the Douglas County Planning Commission with the stipulations that events be limited to 200 attendees, that there be no more than two events a month with amplified outdoor music and that hours be limited to 8 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 8 to midnight Friday and Saturday.
The Douglas County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Douglas County Courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St. To view the commission’s complete agenda, visit douglascountyks.org.