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The Meadowlark Trail in Kansas is a work in progress along a former Union Pacific railroad corridor stretching for 12.6 miles between the cities of McPherson and Lindsborg. The corridor was railbanked in 1997 by the Central Kansas Conservancy, which has since been hard at work developing the trail. As of 2013, two sections of the Meadowlark Trail are open for use, although conditions vary along the length.
In the south, the trail begins at the northwestern edge of the city of McPherson, home to two colleges and a growing population. The trail travels northward for 4 miles through farmland to Pawnee Road. This section of trail has a smooth crushed limestone surface, although the last two miles from Navajo Road to Pawnee Road are still in need of some finishing touches.
In the north, the trail begins at the southern endpoint of the paved Valkommen Trail in Lindsborg. The city is known as 'Little Sweden' because it was settled by immigrants from the country in the 19th century, and the community does its best to commemorate its Swedish heritage by throwing a large celebration every other year. The Meadowlark Trail meets the Valkommen Trail at the Old Mill Campground, located a short walk from the McPherson County Old Mill Museum on Mill Street.
Continuing south from the campground, the trail offers a bit more shade than the section of trail closer to McPherson, as it is enveloped by trees. Before reaching Smoky Valley Road, the trail meets an edge of the winding Smoky Hill River. This portion of trail currently ends at Shawnee Road in an open field. Trail users should be aware that this section of trail is still surfaced with the original railroad ballast, and the route is overgrown with grass and other native foliage at some points. There are also a couple of unimproved trestles on this section of trail; travel should be undertaken at one's own risk.
A 5-mile gap currently exists between the Lindsborg and McPherson portions of the Meadowlark Trail. While the corridor is intact, several adjacent landowners have blocked access to trail users and Central Kansas Conservancy volunteers with fences. Traveling this section of trail is not recommended at this time, although local volunteers continue to work to have the entirety of the Meadowlark Trail open for use in the future.
Parking for the Meadowlark Trail can be found in Lindsborg at Riverside Park on S. 1st Street. From here, take 1st Street south over the Smoky Hill River and through the Old Mill Campground until you reach the junction of the Valkommen Trail and Meadowlark Trail.
In McPherson, parking is available in a grass lot located in the triangle formed by Mocassin Road, Old US 81 and a southern extension of the original rail corridor. McPherson County owns the lot, and volunteers keep it mowed.
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