If you read the legal notice of the Bon Homme Commission meeting on Aug. 17, 2021, it was reported that Ron and Janet Wagner made a proposal to convert unused rail line in Bon Homme and Charles Mix counties into the core of a regional multipurpose recreational trail. They asked the board to consider passing a resolution of support for the project. We delayed action until Sept. 7. Since the rail hasn’t been used for 35 years, I felt responsible to check the condition of the tracks to see if it is a respectful use of taxpayer’s dollars (a grant).

As I drove from Tabor to Platte, staying as close as I could to the rail, I found many major obstacles that would cost a lot of money to overcome. As I talked to farmers along the rail line, they were not at all supportive. I found that most of the rail goes through private property. They don’t want Tom, Dick and Harry going across their property. There will not be any way that activity on the trail can be monitored. My decision to not support this project came after talking to a businessman in a small town who said all they will do is make a lot of farmers mad.

The promoters of this project are meeting with city councils to get support. In my opinion, they should be meeting with the farmers first. I have been in contact with officials in Pierre, and I will be a strong voice for the farmers.

On Sept. 7, Ron Wagner was invited to our meeting so we could ask questions. He never showed up so we took no action on the resolution. Maybe they are starting to realize this is not a very popular project to push for. The promoters need to realize farmers are very protective of their property and should be shown great respect.

(3) comments

Steve Jacobsen

This is Christi Jacobsen writing.

I fully understand the farmers’ concerns, and I empathize with them.

A couple questions -

~ Has the commission communicated with other counties who have trails similar to this proposal to learn of their experiences?

~ Were property owners, where these rails are laid, paid for the loss of their land?

Thanks for commenting.

Yankton resident

Ed is spot on. This is a complex issue. It goes back to" imminent domain" and the land going back to the original land deed holders after the taking on some of those lands when the railroads were built. To make the issue even more complex is the Yankton Sioux Tribe has certain rights to this land in much of Charles Mix County, through treaty from previous reservation rights, and through Tribal trust lands that now currently exist through out Charles Mix County, some of which has been sold but the rights to such land for such things as the taking of land by imminent domain when the railroads were built can revert back to the tribe, the original owner, or trusts. This is an issue that could get tied up in the courts for years to come.

I do know that the second rail built through yankton in the late 1800's, to the northeast, has reverted back to the farmers in Clay and Turner Counties and is currently being farmed. Part of that same Rail is owned by the City of Yankton and is currently being used as a hiking trail. The walking bridge over Marne Creek on the south side of highway 50 near Gramp's Conv. Store is part of that vacated rail line that once ran northeast (to Sioux Falls) from Yankton. I use to ride that train from Yankton to Davis, SD as a youngster. The train stopped in Mission Hill, Volin, Wakonda, Viborg, and Hooker, before getting to Davis and continuing it's journey to Sioux Falls.

Rails to trails in the Black Hills consists of mostly state and federal lands, so it is entirely a different animal than what is being dealt with concerning the Platte to Tabor proposal. The next issue on the proposed trail is who does the maintenance and upkeep? Are the counties proposed to be involved going to levy a tax? If that is the case will that tax proposal or increase be referred to the voters? What will the payback be to the counties in increased tourism? The proposal will have a difficult, if not impossible, Journey winning the court battles it is ultimately going to be faced with. This group may well spend more on legal fees than an interstate highway system would cost.


I can see both sides.It would be nice for some modernization to happen.BUT like I said..I see both sides.

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