Controversy bubbled up yet again surrounding the Central Kansas Conservancy’s Rails to Trails project during a McPherson County Commission meeting Tuesday.
The Central Kansas Conservancy leads work on the Rails to Trails project — a 12-mile limestone trail between McPherson and Lindsborg that lies on a former train track. The local section of trail starts at Old Highway 81 and Moccasin Road.
The conservancy is working to finish two more miles of the 12-mile trail with limestone material. Two miles out of McPherson already have been completed, and the conservancy hopes to finish laying material for another two miles out of McPherson soon.
Some farmers who own land adjacent to the trail aired some of their concerns to commissioners during a public meeting Tuesday.
Tracy Presnell, one of the adjacent landowners to the trail, accused the conservancy of ignoring state law in regards to proper fencing.
Presnell pointed to a 2012 Kansas statute; Chapter 58, Article 32-12, Section 11. That statute says the responsible party must “maintain any existing fencing between the trail and adjacent property, maintain
any future fencing installed between the trail and adjacent property, install between the trail and adjacent property fencing... and, on request of an adjacent property owner, pay one-half the cost of installing fencing.”
Presnell accused the conservancy of ignoring that statute, saying current fencing between the farms and the trail would not be adequate.
“A four-strand barbed wire fence will not suffice for public thoroughfare through my property,” Presnell said.
Another local farmer, Galen Swisher, said he was told a fence he owns to hold livestock would be bulldozed in order for material to be laid down.
Swisher asked county commissioners to keep in mind state laws regarding privately owned property.
“This group has illegally put material down on privately owned property,” Swisher said. “What is
to stop anybody from bulldozing your fence and putting down material on your own property if you don’t enforce these state laws?”
Michele Cullen, conservancy president, said the group will address the farmers’ concerns when the work on the trail reaches the farmers’ properties.
“We want to come to mutual agreements based on fencing laws,” she said during a phone interview after the meeting.
She said there was some concerns about fences covering entrances to the trail, but she said there are ways to deal with those issues that will allow public access to the trail and protect landowners’ livestock.
“We are out to be good neighbors,” she said.
She added the portion of the trail that is open has seen much use by the public.
Page 2 of 2 - “It is a great surface for biking, jogging and walking,” Cullen said.
These concerns were aired as county commissioners discussed a bond agreement between the county and the conservancy.
Presnell asked commissioners to keep the past performance of the conservancy in mind.
“Past performance isn’t a good indicator of where this is going,” he said.
The bond in question is a $1,000 bond toward the purchase of noxious weed killer and maintenance
materials. Commissioners ultimately tabled the issue to allow for further discussion.
Circles of McPherson County
Brenda Sales, director of Circles of McPherson County, thanked commissioners for $20,000 in funding for 2012 and provided an update on the group’s recent developments.
Circles of McPherson County helps low-income families out of poverty.
As of fall 2012, Sales said the group doubled in size, hosting a total of 15 families.
Commissioner chairman Ron Loomis said another $20,000 for the 2013 year would be considered during budget hearing for the next fiscal year.