Wayne White | Managing Editor

LYNDON—In April, the Flint Hills Nature Trail might see more foot traffic than it ever has since it was converted from a railroad corridor into a hiking trail. In fact, it could appear that an entire army is marching down it.

Virgil Scheid, rural Vassar, reported to the Osage County Commission Monday that he had received communication from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, based at Fort Riley. The unit is planning a spring road march, and has chosen the Flint Hills Nature Trail as a likely route for the training exercise.

Scheid said an e-mail had been sent to the trail’s developers in November, seeking information about the feasibility of soldiers hiking the trail 117 miles from Osawatomie to Herington.

“You’re going to see about 800 soldiers walking down the trail,” Scheid told commissioners.

He said he was notified last month that the march plans were still being developed for the Army unit to walk the trail over five days in April.

Scheid noted the trail has not been completed over the entire route; 24.6 miles of the former Missouri-Pacific line crosses Osage County with about seven of those miles developed near Vassar and west toward Osage City.

Trail developers know there are some obstacles and possible hazards in undeveloped areas, Scheid said, but they should not create any hardship for soldiers used to living in war conditions such as in Iraq, from where the regiment was recently redeployed.

“It’s one beautiful trail from Osawatomie to Ottawa,” Scheid said.

He said the captain who had contacted him pledged to offer services of the soldiers to improve the trail.

Osage County Commissioner Carl Meyer asked Scheid about an obstruction on the trail west of U.S. Highway 75, and whether the soldiers would help remove it. Scheid said after the meeting trail developers had been steadily working to remove a large amount of brush on the rail bed.

During the meeting, Scheid also conferred with Osage County road and bridge supervisor Glen Tyson about several road drainages that intersect the trail and need attention. Tyson agreed to inspect the drainages for possible repair.

Scheid said military personnel had been in the area recently inspecting the trail for the possible march. He noted the Army had asked for no assistance other than permission to hike, although he believed they would be seeking areas to set up camp along the trail.

Commissioners were agreeable to the proposed march and offered assistance if requested.

“Let us know if they need anything,” said Osage County Commissioner Ken Kuykendall.

Scheid said the troops would likely need nothing but the packs on their backs.

“What they pack is what they use,” he said. “They’re military. They’re rough, tough guys.”

Scheid said he would report back to the commissioners when the march is confirmed.

In other business, the commission:

• approved a request from Anne Gray, health department director, to purchase a vaccine refrigerator with leftover H1N1 vaccination funds. A purchase order for $5,229.80 to Gem Refrigerator Company was approved. Gray also reported local school H1N1 vaccination clinics have been completed.

• approved the purchase of a used, 2008 Caterpillar wheeled-loader for the road and bridge department from Foley Tractor, Topeka, at a cost of $102,200. Commissioners also agreed to purchase a conveyor to be used to unload the county’s recycling trailers, which are now available at Scranton and Overbrook. The price of the conveyor is $1,000.

• heard from Tyson that a township and county road meeting has been scheduled for April 6 at Melvern Community Center. Tyson also reported on the possible availability of stimulus funds for a bridge project.

• met with Mike Halleran, of Emporia, to discuss collection services for delinquent personal property taxes for the county. Halleran is to meet with commissioners at a later date with proposed fees for his work.

• at the request of Sheila Dale, county land use coordinator, formally approved annexation of the Tiger Ridge subdivision into the city limits of Lyndon. Dale said the county planning and zoning board had also approved the annexation.

• approved a request from Stephanie Watson, county economic development director, to appoint her as administrator of the county’s E-Community program. Watson said the county could collect a fee of five percent to administer the business startup loan fund. She also presented a report on ongoing economic development activities.