Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s (KDWPT) Flint Hills Trail and Prairie Spirit Trail state parks recently received America’s highest trails honor when they were designated National Recreational Trails by the National Park Service. Both state park trails are operated by KDWPT’s Parks Division.
“This is significant, not only for those parks and our state parks system, but for the state of Kansas,” said Linda Lanterman, KDWPT’s Parks Division director. “This is going to draw valuable attention to two great state parks and all they have to offer. And, ultimately, help the local economies that are developing along those trails. This is a big deal.”
The designation brings no monetary prize, but the parks can now use signage that denotes their high quality. The trails will also get special recognition on some maps of America’s trails. Both the Flint Hills Trail and Prairie Spirit Trail are built along abandoned railroad lines and required a tremendous amount of private labor to become reality.
The 117-mile Flint Hills Trail reaches from near Osawatomie to Herington, passing through landscapes that vary from steep, heavily timbered ridges to the Tallgrass Prairie of the Flint Hills.
Prairie Spirit Trail stretches 51 miles from Ottawa to Iola, and also crosses a wide range of scenic topography.
The two trails intersect in Ottawa. Businesses, including bed and breakfasts, cafes, museums and bicycle shops now benefit from the thousands of trail users from across the country who visit annually.
Both are funded by state park fees and grants. There is no charge to hike, cycle or horseback ride on either trail. And, the trails are maintained solely by a small number of staff and dedicated volunteers.
“We couldn’t have done any of this without our volunteers and private landowners,” said Lanterman. “They’re incredible and a huge reason why these trails have been so successful.”
Lanterman credited Kathy Pritchett, retired trails grant coordinator for KDWPT, with supplying the National Parks Service with the necessary documentation to be considered for a National Recreational Trail designation.
The National Parks Service made the announcement on Oct. 22 when 30 water and land trails in 25 states received the coveted recognition.
Kansas was the only state with four trails recognized. In addition to the state parks, the Migrant’s Mile Trail at Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and Outlet Campground Trail System at Melvern Reservoir also received recognition.
Kansas is also fortunate to have 192 miles of the Arkansas River and 173 miles of the Kansas River listed as National Water Trails.
By current estimates Kansas is home to more than 4,000 miles of maintained, public trails. Find one to discover today at ksoutdoors.com.