FLATS Phase 2 Opening Brings Governor to Northeast Missouri

Governor Mike Parson visited Thousand Hills State Park Tuesday, October 18 to celebrate the FLATS Phase 2 ribbon cutting with Senator Cindy O’Laughlin, Representatives Danny Busick and Greg Sharpe, and Director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources Dru Buntin.

Phase 2 completes the approximately 1.3 mile paved trail connecting the marina, dining lodge, cabins, swim beach, petroglyph site, and park office to the two park campsites. In honor of a generous donation from long-time Kirksville resident Carolyn Bagley Harding the trail has been named in her honor.

At the ceremony, Governor Parson emphasized how people need to come together to make projects like this happen as well as the importance of bringing investment to “the northern part of the state from I-70 across the state on up.” FLATS is living proof that the governor hit the nail on the head on both points.

Senator O’Laughlin drove home the economic benefits of the project that have motivated FLATS from the start: “Every investment that is made here gets paid back to us in triple form.” Director Buntin added that “these projects keep the state moving forward and have helped establish Missouri as a top destination for business expansion.”

And Representative Busick summed it all up saying, “a walking trail is a great thing.”

Director Buntin also made an exciting announcement about a project FLATS has initiated with the Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Conservation: A five-mile natural surface trail connecting Campground #1 and the Thousand Hills Trailhead in Big Creek Conservation Area. “The completion of this trail will,” Buntin explained, “create a full loop for Thousand Hills Trail users.”

In other words, you’ll soon be able to hike or mountain bike a full fifteen-mile loop around beautiful Forest Lake! This is a true game-changer for outdoor recreation, public health, and tourism in northeast Missouri. Stay tuned for a map and expected opening date.

As Governor Parson said, “This is Missouri’s best, right here.”

Attending the ceremony were City Manager Mari Macomber, Director of Tourism Sharon Swehla, ATSU Vice President and General Counsel Matt Heeren, Park Superintendent Ryan Persinger, Department of Natural Resources Deputy Director Mike Sutherland, FLATS board members Susan Dublin, Ted Frushour, and Debi Boughton, and representatives from design firm Klingner and Associates and construction firm S&A Equipment and Builders.

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