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Save the Parks by Bill Clark

Dear Gianni,

I read about your efforts to keep park land in the control of citizens.
I am from Missouri so I can only offer moral support, which I do whole
heartedly. Good luck. I think it is a winable battle. All the sports
and recreation oriented groups and people should be able to get this
done. It takes a lot of networking and publicity to shame the politicians
into doing the right thing.

We had a similar situation here in Missouri. The old Missouri Kansas
Texas railroad (MKT or "KATY")was abandoning their rail corridor clear
across Missouri. It runs right across the center of the state and much of
it runs right beside the great Missouri River. Several environmental,
conservation groups and bicycle groups tried to get it set asided for a
cross state bike and hiking trail. Major farmer's groups and agricultural lobbying groups fought it. We have several large and powerful
agricultural lobbying groups: Corn Growers; Soybean Growers; Sheep Breeders, Cattle Breeders; Pork Producers; and groups representing cotton, rice and sorghum growers all weighed in. For them it was a property rights
battle. The rail line ran right through many old family or corporate
owned farms. They would oterwise receive the land as an extra 10 foot wide
strip of land to add to their acerage. Farmers also feared losing easy
access to fields where the railroad had traditionally maintained
tractor crossings for their equipment. They also feared city folk coming to
the country to vandalize their crops and property.

It was a nasty legal battle. We were lucky enough to get a large
wealthy corporate sponsor for our battle. Edward D. Jones, founder of the
Edward Jones brokerage firm donated money to the campaign to gain public
support. He also created a development fund to build the first three
trailheads to build parking lots, porta-potties and begin to prepare the
railbeds with small pressed gravel to create a bicycle friendly surface.

Eight years later, many people who were critics of the plan proudly
talk of our bike trail park. In Missouri we now boast of the nation's
longest state park: 250 miles long and 10 feet wide. Farmers who were
former opponents of the plan found out that, the kind of people who can
afford to buy $300-$900 bicycles are not the kind who generally vandalize
property and that they are the kind of people who spend lots of money on
tourism. Farmers who formerly battled the plan have created campgrounds
along the trail for boyscout groopsl, U-Pick berry farms, bed and
breakfasts and local cafes. The trail runs through many old towns that were
virtually ghost towns where there are now coffee shop/cafes, wine and
cheese shops, historic hotels and wineries. We now have families, bike
clubs, scout groups that come from all over the world to ride our trail.
It has brought in a great deal of tourism to Missouri and our annual
Cross Missouri Bike Ride is soon to surpass the Iowa, and Michigan in

It occurs to me that the sort of parks that you are proposing for one
or more of these golf courses would be great for tourism. Have you
enlisted the support of local bike groups, the American Parks and Recreation
Association, and the Nature Conservancy? They are large organizations
that put money behind these sorts of battles. I also believe that you
have the US headquarters of the Konami Video game company. They put money behind civic oriented "people Oriented" efforts so as to maintiain
their reputation as a community oriented corporation.

Good luck. I have fond memories of an afternoon I spent in Golden Gate
Park. San Francisco needs to cultivate it's reputation as destination
of Tourism.

Bill Clark, in Missouri

Posted on 23 Apr 2007 by coachgianni
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