The trial to decide if the Central Kansas Conservancy will be allowed to connect the Meadowlark Trail continued Monday morning at the McPherson County Courthouse.

The bench trial overseen by Judge Marilyn M. Wilder will decide whether the conservation group will receive an injunction against area property owners in order to connect the trail from north of McPherson to Lindsborg. The trial was continued from Jan. 22 and 23 as the plaintiff had additional evidence. Final arguments will be given in mid-May and Wilder will announce a verdict after that time. 

The conservancy hopes to connect the remaining five miles of the recreational trail on land vacated by a railroad.

On Monday, several individuals gave testimony concerning the progress made so far, steps taken at the initiation of the program.

The CKC filed suit in late 2015 against Clinton and Kim Sides, who own property just north of Pawnee Road in McPherson County.

Michelle Cullen, president of the CKC board, said in August that the organization has had the deed to the federal right-of-way to finish the trail since 1997.

Phase I of the trail construction included developing the 4-mile trail from Pawnee Road to McPherson. Phase II included nearly 3 miles from Shawnee Road to Lindsborg. The last part to be developed is phase III, which would connect the two into a 12-mile trail.

Landowners have been fighting with the CKC for almost 22 years.

In August, CKC volunteers were met by opposition, mainly from property owners in the area.

Clinton Sides at the time argued that the CKC has allowed the corridor to sit idle for too long. He said the Kansas Rails to Trails Act allowed the organization two years to build the trail, not 20 years.

Wilder previously ruled that the KRTA does not apply and rails-to-trails easements, which are held for public purposes, are immune from statutes of limitations.

Contact Cheyenne Derksen Schroeder by email at cderksen@mcphersonsentinel.com or follow her on Twitter at @MacSentinel.