During public comments in the Butler County Commission meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26, local attorney Jim Hargrove discussed rail right-of-way between U.S. 400 and the White Water River. That almost four-mile stretch between Andover and Augusta is owned and run by the county. Hargrove represents one landowner along that strip of land and may end up representing five to seven total. He pointed out that the county hasn't fulfilled requirements for rails-to-trails conversion.
"During the '80s and into the '90s, railroads starting abandoning lots and lots of rail systems – rail lines. And what happened when they abandoned them, the adjacent landowners got the land to the middle of the right of way .... There was also, though, the possibility of having ... an entity ... make a use out of a strip of that railroad and make it into a 'rails-to-trails.' And so in 2004, Butler County got involved, and the surface transportation board – the STB, as it's known – went ahead and conveyed the strip of land over to Butler County. And it was to be used for recreational purposes for rails-to-trails .... The Kansas Statutes Legislature passed a law back then, K.S.A. 3213, which says the responsible party ... has two years from the conveyance to be able to convert that into a recreational trail. And, obviously, that didn't happen .... We are asking that the county abandon that strip – that it needs to go back to the landowners. It's not being used as a rail-to-trail now," Hargrove said.
Byron Rupp, president of the Andover-Augusta RailTrail Initiative (AARTI), responded to Hargrove's claims and said that some landowners were compensated for right-of-way. Rupp also mentioned county residents' desire for rail trails.
County Administrator William Johnson said he notified a few individuals in the county's legal counsel to review the rail right-of-way issue. The decision as far as what to do with the matter will then fall to the county commission.
Next, Mryna Rogers of Augusta discussed the American Legion Auxiliary County Government Day that will be held Oct. 10. Rogers said that she's received responses so far for a total of 330 students – which is greater than last year's record attendance count of about 280 students. She worked through some practical details of the event with the board of commissioners.