install posts and signs marking the trail at the intersection
of Fifth Street Sunday afternoon.
Jeremy Gaston | Editor
OSAGE CITY—Around 100 volunteers devoted their Sunday
to improving the face of Osage City. Crews of duty-free labor
worked at half a dozen sites as early at 7 a.m. Sunday morning,
doing their part to help the people, parks, buildings and
leisure areas within the community.
“We had crews at ECAT, the community building, the old
skating rink, the rail-to-trails project, the school and all
three nursing homes,” said Jim Harrelson of Community
Covenant Church, which provided much of the manpower Sunday.
“We were kind of all over the place.”
Harrelson’s church provided nearly 70 volunteers Sunday,
some starting as early as dawn and working as late at 4 p.m.
in the 100-degree heat. Parishioners had signed onto the project,
stemmed from a seed given to church intern Ryan Mahoney, who
got the ball rolling on the event.
“I called around to all the places we volunteered, found
out their needs and assessed our resources as a church, trying
to bring the two together,” Mahoney said. “We
promoted it and got people interested. People brought skills,
tools, ideas – it got a lot of momentum. It was awesome.”
Church members were involved in clearing brush on the trail;
painting at the ECAT, community and recreation buildings,
along with the school football locker rooms; cleaning up the
school courtyard; and working with senior citizens.
“One of the more amazing parts was that I didn’t
meet anybody upset or angry about the heat,” Mahoney
said. “What I came across were people trying to figure
out how to do more than what we’ve been asked to do.”
Mahoney took the idea to the Osage City Council during its
July 12 meeting. Karen DeOrnellas, Kanza Rails-Trails Conservancy,
had also attended the meeting to speak on the Osage City trail
project. DeOrnellas’ presence at the meeting had little
effect on the council’s decision to abandon a paved
trail project, but a conversation with Mahoney following the
meeting proved fruitful in opening up the trail in town.
“He indicated his church had an interest in the trail,
and they were looking at doing some volunteerism,” DeOrnellas
said. “We opened it to the conservancy and spread it
through our mechanisms.”
Trail volunteers from the area, along with conservancy members
from Alma, Wakarusa, Council Grove, Silver Lake and Abilene,
pulled together with members of the church to put 40 to 50
people on the Flint Hills Trail route in Osage City, clearing
extensive amounts of brush along the two-mile stretch, filling
holes and marking the trail route with posts and signs.
“The trail people – they blew everyone’s
expectations out of the water,” Mahoney said. “They
just cleared a ton of stuff with tractors, chain saws and
big stuff, it was incredible.”
Beyond the physical work accomplished along the route, DeOrnellas
saw it as an opportunity for residents to take personal ownership
of the trail.
“I thought we had an excellent day in Osage City,”
DeOrnellas said. “It’s obvious to me that there
are many residents that support the trail with their voices,
but are also willing to go out and make the trail better.
Lots of hard work, lots of sweat put into making that trail
a reality for Osage City.”
“They made good progress,” Harrelson said. “I
think everyone was pleased with the outcome.”
Harrelson was even more pleased with the reaction of those
“When we got back at the church at four o’clock,
I heard people ask when are we going to do this again,”
Harrelson said. “There’s a lot of energy out there.”
Church members donating time Sunday came from all over the
area, and the goal of the church stemmed past helping the
resources available to them.
“Our people get that pretty clear, that it’s not
about us,” Harrelson said. “If all we do is gather
on Sunday morning, we’ve done our community no good.”
Trail progress, hurdles
Sunday’s progress went a long way in defining the Flint
Hills Nature Trail route through Osage City, which was one
of the less developed areas in county. Hurdles, however, still
exist along the 17-block recreational course.
“What we’re doing is working on the Osage City
area and then the area between Osage City and U.S. 75 bridge,”
said John Purvis, president of Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy.
“It’s been cleared pretty well. It won’t
take a lot to get it going. People have already started to
With the city’s decision to discard plans to pave all
or part of the trail, the conservancy hopes to further develop
the face of the trail.
“What we’ll be working on is grants to do surfacing,”
Purvis said. “Hopefully, it’ll be a crushed limestone
Despite initial speed bumps, the conservancy hopes to become
partners with the city in the continued development of the
“We can help each other to create a facility that would
benefit everyone,” Purvis said. “Just because
they decided not to go through with the big project, I don’t
anticipate that means they won’t be involved with the
project at all. I think Osage City has a great deal to gain.
I look for there to be a lot of traffic on the trail.”
Most of the Osage City stretch has been significantly improved
for walking, bicycling and horseback riding. Setbacks to the
project include a rail bridge near Fifth Street which needs
repairs, along with the intersection of the trail with the
BNSF railroad – both currently passable, but not optimal.
“We’ll address the bridge first, we’ll deck
it and put railings on it,” Purvis said. “We’re
already figuring out what we’re going to do with the
railroad. We’ve made some enquiries about what their
expectations are. We hope to visit with (BNSF) in detail.
We want everything to be as safe as possible. That’s
something we take real serious.”
To help address local hurdles, the conservancy looks to develop
a local group of volunteers and organizers to help continue
to maintain and develop the trail in Osage City and the surrounding
“We were hoping a volunteer group in the area would
coalesce,” Purvis said. “Local ownership is what
it’s all about.”
Sunday’s event helped bring several people together.
DeOrnellas has begun working to find an area coordinator in
“Kareen has expressed interest in become active as an
Osage City representative of the trail,” DeOrnellas
said. “She’s going to be coordinating some future
trail efforts in conjunction with the conservancy board.”
King helped organize the work day, and joined in the work
with church and trail volunteers Sunday.
“It was a really great experience,” King said.
“I definitely enjoyed it.”
Purvis and DeOrnellas hope more locals will take on personal
ownership of the trail.
“Taking pride in what they do – that’s one
of the good things about what we’re doing,” Purvis
said. “Over time, it becomes a thing of community pride.
Admire has gotten into the trail big time. They understand
the possibility that becomes these trails. They’re transportation
corridors, and the people using them like to go on trips where
they can go and do long-distance trails. They’re an
attraction of themselves. There’s not too many other
things a community can do to funnel people economically into
town. They come into town and stop and spend money.”
“The trail offers an opportunity for many groups to
get out and exercise, be safe and off the streets,”
DeOrnellas said. “A place where they don’t need
to worry about vehicular traffic. It’s an excellent
environment to have right in the middle of Osage City. So
many people can use it for so many purposes.”
“That trail is a trail now,” Purvis said. “There’s
a few things that need to be done to it, but it can be used
as is at this point.”
For more information on the Kanza Rails-Trail Conservancy,