CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - It's a hot debate in Cape Girardeau County. What will happen to a 13 mile stretch of train tracks that runs from Gordonville to Delta?
Land owners say it dates back to the 1800s, but has not been used in years.
Now, according to county officials, the railroad has officially filed with the federal Surface and Transportation Board to abandon the track.
"According to the old agreement, that means the property would go back to the land owners," said Dick Kiehne of Gordonville. He owns 100 acres that surround the track area.
Officials say Kiehne is right. However, the Rails to Trails Act allows for other groups to come in and try to give a new life to the old track.
"We want to turn it into a bike trail or recreation trail," said John Dodd of SEMO Greenways.
Dodd says they filed needed paperwork to express their interest a few days ago.
"This is all in the early stages," said Dodd. "The railroad has to agree to it and then several other things have to fall into place. If that happens, then we have 180 days to come up with a presentation to prove we could handle the cost and maintenance of a trail. We want to do something to enhance the area."
However, land owners like Kiehne say they'd just like to see the easement go back into the hands of property owners.
"We don't know who will be coming through here. We have concerns about maintenance and safety and security. We all have children. We don't want to have to worry about what's going on in our backyard," said Kiehne. "Cattle would have to be fenced. There's a lot of concerns."
"We know they have concerns," said Dodd. "We want to work with them. In some cases on other trails we've actually seen the areas become safer and better cared for. That could happen here too."
Both sides now meet separately to discuss what's best for them. Land owners meet this Wednesday at the Gordonville Grill.
The SEMO Greenways group meets on Tuesdays.
According to county officials, they don't have much say in the matter. Commissioners say the county could not afford to maintain a trail.
Dodd says the group will likely seek grants and other funding.
Either way, officials say the railroad will likely pull up the tracks and sell the scrap.
"There's a lot that has to be done before there's a decision," said Kiehne.