A new local organization recently formed to address the needs of state parks and trails in West Central Missouri.
The State Fair Trails Back Country Horsemen is a chapter of the Show-Me Back Country Horsemen, which is the state chapter for Back Country Horsemen of America. The local chapter formed last fall, making it Missouri’s 10th chapter, and the group’s main focus is helping to maintain local trails.
“The primary reason to have a chapter here in Central Missouri is to add the relevance to our public lands we have accessible to us, help protect us having access to public lands, and then taking care of those lands that we use through service where we partner with land managers with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources,” said co-chair Staci Harrison. “It takes a lot of manpower to maintain trails, keep trails up and even extend trails. If they can’t be maintained they certainly won’t be extended.”
“Our goal is to educate people and the government about the necessity of being able to access our public lands by horseback and the need for us to help,” said co-chair Jason Kindle. “If we want to have access it’s our right as citizens to stand up and do something about it. There’s a saying I live by, ‘be the change you want to see in the world.’ So don’t just gripe about things, stand up and do something.”
Harrison noted that Missouri is one of the top 10 states for the number of residents who have horses, but many may not be aware of how many trails the local area has to offer.
“There are so many trails here, hidden treasures,” she said. “People don’t realize the beautiful trails we have. It also helps with tourism, helps the economy here in Missouri. It’s a sub-benefit, if we’re able to create (trail) facilities pleasing to people, they’ll stop and stay.
“With our service programs it’s more than trail maintenance, like moving fallen tress, picking up trash, cutting limbs that could be a hazard. We’re going to be building a bridge on a trail in Knob Noster. It’s an area that has been needing a bridge for quite some time. We’re partnering with the land manager there, they will provide materials and we will build the bridge for them.”
Harrison and Kindle said they are focusing on two main trails for now: McAdoo Trail in Knob Noster State Park and Big Buffalo Trail, which is northeast of Cole Camp. Harrison said the chapter will also be part of the extension of the Rock Island Trail when it comes through Knob Noster.
Kindle said the group has already completed a project on the Katy Trail in Sedalia. Members installed a permanent mounting block in the equestrian parking lot on the Missouri State Fairgrounds to provide assistance for someone who may have trouble getting on their horse.
In addition to being a service organization, the group also educates hikers, runners and cyclists about how to interact with horses they may encounter on trails, Harrison said. State Fair Trails also speaks to local 4-H groups about access to public land and how to maintain it, using “No Trace Left Behind.”
“It’s about keeping the lands that we visited the same way as we found them,” Harrison explained. “Not getting off the trail and causing unnecessary disturbance to the land, not littering.”
The State Fair Trails chapter will have a work day March 28 at Big Buffalo Creek and a work day April 30 on the McAdoo Trail. Participants will be clearing brush and dead-fall, picking up trash and marking the trails to make sure people stay safe and don’t get lost.
There will be a quarterly meeting at 6 p.m. April 9 at Best Western State Fair Inn. Anyone looking to learn more about the chapter is welcome to attend.
Both Harrison and Kindle noted that anyone who loves of the outdoors is welcome to join State Fair Trails.
“You don’t have to actually be a horse owner to be a member,” Kindle said. “A lot of trails we access are open to hikers. It’s just people who want to help preserve our national parks and trails, we’d love to have them as well.”
Harrison said they are looking to bring in members from Moniteau, Morgan, Johnson and Henry counties. She said they have about 30 members but are hoping to reach 100 or more. Eventually, they’d like to have subgroups of the State Fair Trails chapter that would help take care of local trails, such as citizens of Stover, Versailles and Cole Camp helping with the Big Buffalo Trail.
“The group also gives an opportunity for folks in other parts of Central Missouri to visit trails they haven’t visited before,” Harrison added. “I was in Eldon Saturday at a horse judging training and I gave a presentation on the chapter and they were so excited because they’d been talking about establishing a chapter. They were excited they can join our chapter.”
State Fair Trails Back Country Horsemen will be sponsoring the pony rides during the Pro Rodeo this weekend in the Mathewson Exhibition Center. Members will be available to answer questions while giving the community an opportunity to ride a horse, along with a chance to purchase raffle tickets to win a Circle Y Saddle.
For more information, search for “State Fair Trails: Show-Me Missouri Back Country Horsemen Chapter” on Facebook or visit showmebch.org.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-530-0138 or @NicoleRCooke.