SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The closure of City Utilities of Springfield’s James River Power Station is leading to a new way for people to enjoy the great outdoors.
The BNSF Railway route leading to the plant is being abandoned. The line happens to travel past several popular spots, including Sequiota Park, Galloway Village, Springfield Nature Center, and Lake Springfield. Work is set to begin next year on a project that will replace the rails with a greenway trail traversing the east side of the city.
“We love this area, we love the trails, ” stated Summer Trottier, owner of Culture Flock on Lone Pine Avenue. “We knew that this area could potentially have a lot of foot traffic- being close to the park was a big draw. It is just a beautiful part of town.”
Trottier’s business is one of many new shops and restaurants opening in recent years in the Galloway Village neighborhood.
“We were lucky to be down here once that boom started,” she explained.
The neighborhood is bisected by an unused, weed-covered railroad line. Known as BNSF Railway’s Kissick Branch, the route leads to the old CU James River Power Station. In recent times, the sole reason for these rails was for coal trains running to the plant. In 2015, CU announced the the coal units at the facility were being converted to natural gas. The plant itself was fully decommissioned in 2021. As a result, the rails are no longer needed and the trains are now long gone. However, the route isn’t fading into history.
“It gives people choices and options, ” stated Mary Kromrey, Ozarks Greenways Executive Director. “We are utilizing this old railroad route to help us put together this corridor that is for folks to bicycle, walk, and rollerblade and just have all sorts of fun.”
The tracks will soon be scrapped, and in their place will be the Chadwick Flyer Trail– which is named for the original steam train that ran along the route. By repurposing an old rail corridor, the project will be similar to Ozark Greenway’s Frisco Highline Trail.
Ozark Greenways is working with City Utilities to acquire the approximately two-mile long right-of-way running between Lake Springfield, the power plant property, and the Greene-Christian County line.
Kromrey explained this initial segment has already been funded. Ozarks Transportation Organization has taken a lead on the project, which is set to be built in 2023 after the track is removed.
Meanwhile, The City of Springfield is working with BNSF Railway on the section that runs south of E. Sunshine St. to Sequiota Park, Galloway and Lake Springfield.
“BNSF and the city are currently engaged in discussions regarding the future of the branch line. At this time, we do not have further details to share,” stated Ben Wilemon, BNSF’s External Corporate Communications Manager.
The portion of the railroad line from Sunshine St. north to downtown remains in use to serve the Kraft-Heinz plant on Bennett St. near Glenstone Ave.
“Oftentimes our transportation corridors are about moving the greatest number of cars as quickly as possible. And, this will be a way for folks to travel at their own pace- in nature,” Kromrey told Ozarks Fox/KOLR10’s Mike Landis.”
While OTO, Ozark Greenways, City of Springfied, and BNSF Railway work out plans for the initial segments of the trail, community leaders to the south are moving ahead with plans for a pathway using the same corridor.
Until the 1980s, the Burlington Northern rail line ran beyond the county line and into the City of Ozark. There, trains provided service to an old feed mill along the Finley River. That facility recently reopened as Johnny Morris’ popular Finley Farms attraction. On its website, the City of Ozark says it’s currently working on its own trail running from the riverfront, past the Ozark Community Center, and through the Fremont Hills area. According to Ozark Greenways, this southern section would eventually connect with the Springfield segment trail near the county line.