A freshly-formed council hosted its first ever meeting in Ottawa Thursday. Members of the Flint Hills Trail Advisory Council, formed by the state via Senate Bill No. 331, met Thursday evening in the Franklin County Commission Chambers at the Franklin County Office Annex for two hours to introduce its members, learn about the history and future of the trail, and hash out the purpose for the council and its members.

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is a rail trail that runs 117 miles from Osawatomie west to Herington. It goes through Ottawa, intersecting with the north-south Prairie Spirit Trail at First and Walnut streets. It was designated a Kansas state park this year.

Members of the committee include — George Pretz, Miami County commissioner; Wyndee Lee, Ottawa director of community development; Fred Diver, Osage County commissioner; Dan Slater, Lyon County comissioner; Gary Floyd, Morris County representative; William Snyder (not present); Kansas Sen. Jeff Longbine, R - Emporia; Kansas Rep. Dave Baker, R - Council Grove; Linda Craighead, KDWPT interim secretary; David Jones, Herington mayor; Scott Allen, Council Grove - Kanza Rail Trails Conservancy vice president; Bruce Schoepflin, Osage City councilman; Brian Patton, Franklin County representative; and Dr. Sarah Dorsett, Osawatomie representative and trail volunteer. Those present to provide information about the trail were Linda Lanterman, Kansas State Parks director; Jeff Bender, Kansas State Parks regional supervisor and Trent McCown, Flint Hills Trail manager.

By the next meeting, tentatively set for 6 p.m. January 22 in Topeka, the council will assign members to one of three sub-committees — promotion, maintenance and fundraising.

“This committee doesn’t manage the trail,” Baker said during the meeting. “We are not going to go out and tell people what they can and can’t do. That is not our job.

“This committee, we need to make sure that the trail — five, ten, twenty years from now — doesn’t go backwards,” he added. “Serving in the state legislature, I think we need to make sure the funding for the trail is adequate and we need to try to do that without counting on the state for help. I think we need to try to make it self-sustaining with our own resources.”

Other points of interest in the meeting included a presentation on the history, current state and future plans for the trail. Future development consists of trail from Admire to Osage City, which is funded; finishing touches out east to Osawatomie and development west from Council Grove to Herington, Bender said.

Lee and Susan Rader, Franklin County tourism executive director, also presented the board with updates on Ottawa’s Legacy Square initiative, which is set to be developed on the southeast corner of First and Walnut streets where the town’s two major trails intersect.