The Peers Store: A Conservation Outpost For Magnificent Missouri

Magnificent Missouri The Peers Store

Imagine a place where you can listen to bluegrass music on the front porch of a country store overlooking a native grass and wildflower prairie – and arrive there on the Katy Trail!

Magnificent Missouri believes that this place, near the Missouri River west of St. Louis, is one that can bring new friends to the conservation cause. 

The Peers Store, just west of Marthasville along Highway 94, was built in 1896 for the arrival of the KATY Railroad. The store flourished for more than a century before it closed in 2012, surviving floods and the conversion of the railroad to America’s longest bike path. It was rescued and renovated in 2014 to continue its life as a gathering place, now welcoming Katy Trail riders and others to learn about the need to conserve the landscape enjoyed by tens of thousands each year. Today the store is used by Magnificent Missouri, a 501c3 dedicated to conservation, as a place for conservation collaborations with other Missouri conservation organizations.

Dan Burkhardt, a founder of Magnificent Missouri, was a friend of Ted Jones, father of the Katy Trail. “Ted’s dream was that the Katy would provide people who weren’t lucky enough to live in the country a way to enjoy the beauty of rural Missouri, we try to help them do that – while educating them about how to conserve the area for the future”. 

According to Ralph Pfremmer, Executive Director of Magnificent Missouri, “There is no other spot like this, a place that brings together cultural history and environmental education, close to St. Louis and right on the Katy Trail. Our visitors may come for the music, art or history but we hope they stay for the conservation message”.

In 2017 a native prairie planting was created on the four acres between the Peers Store and the Trail. It provides an ideal place to witness the biodiversity benefits of native plants, but the impact the prairie has on Trail users is beyond biodiversity. According to Connie Burkhardt, “When riders come down the trail and are surrounded by native plants in bloom, attracting butterflies and birds, they are ‘transported’ in another way! A ride on the Katy is already magical but native plants take us back to the pre-railroad days of the river valley.” 

The Peers Store will be open this spring, summer and fall to welcome visitors and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Trail. On weekends local bluegrass bands play on the front porch where visitors can view the 4-acre prairie, take a break from the sun and enjoy the expansive view that stretches to the Missouri River two miles away. 

At the heart of the Magnificent Missouri mission is conservation of privately-owned land through voluntary protection of farms and forests using conservation easements.

Dan and Connie Burkhardt, owners of the Peers Store, placed a conservation easement on their nearby farm in 2010. “We wanted to make sure our farm was always a farm, regardless of who owned it in the future, so we protected it with a conservation easement in 2010. With a conservation easement the farm remains our private property but no one can ever turn it into a subdivision or a golf course, that means a lot to us”, Dan says. 

The Burkhardts started the Katy Land Trust, sister organization of Magnificent Missouri, to inform area landowners about the benefits of conservation easements and the Peers Store provides a trail-front location to spread the word on land conservation. The benefits of fighting invasive species and using native plants to increase beauty and biodiversity are also always on the agenda. 

“We think people conserve what they love” says Ralph Pfremmer, “and if we can get them to love the Missouri countryside and the land along the Katy Trail a little bit more we think they will join us in our mission of conserving it.”

For more information about conservation easements and the work of Magnificent Missouri and the Katy Land Trust visit MagnificentMissouri.org — or better yet visit the Peers Store on the Katy Trail.