The Flint Hills Nature Trail officially became part of the state’s park system Tuesday evening when Gov. Jeff Colyer signed Senate Bill 321, which designated the trail as a state park.

Colyer along with Robin Jennisen, secretary of Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, were on hand for the signing ceremony at The Bottle House, 204 S. Walnut St., Ottawa.

The signing of the bill was in conjunction with Onward Ottawa’s celebration of the new Downtown River Plaza. The new state park will intersect the Prairie Spirit Rail Trail and the River Plaza at First and Walnut streets.

The trail is 117 miles long and covers six counties. It runs from Osawatomie to Council Grove.

“It is designating something that is special to us,” Colyer said prior to signing the bill. “I had three cyclists come up to us that had just ridden up from Iola today to be here for this event. Isn’t that pretty cool. I am so honored to be here right at the square of those two trails. Right here at Legacy Square.”

Jennisen said Kansas is bucking the trend by adding state parks, while other states are closing parks.

“Kansas created two new ones last year,” Jennisen said. “That is very significant. It is almost impossible to make money off a linear trail. What that linear trail will do for Kansas is immense. With the popularity of biking and hiking and the location of the Flint Hills Trail, it goes through a unique area of Kansas. It used to be a unique area in the whole continental United States. We have something very unique in Kansas and people want to see it. That is the significance of the Flint Hills Trail.”

Jennisen said the creation of the Legacy Square project gives the Flint Hills Nature Trail a foundation to build from.

“We knew it would be a great thing for Kansas if the communities along the trail would embrace what we were trying to do,” he said. “We have the first community that understands what is about to happen here. This is a significant day.”

Colyer said along with creating a new state park there will be a Flint Hills advisory council.

“So they can continue this legacy,” he said. “What it will do is access and look at the development, look at the maintenance and promotion of The Flint Hills Nature trail...how we can continue this on.”