• Kim Norvell
  • Thu October 19 2017
  • Posted Oct 19, 2017

Clive has begun removing more than 400 trees alongitsscenic Greenbelt Trail as it prepares tostraighten the trail to cut down on the number of blind curves.

The city says the changes are needed to improve safety for trail usersand to protect against erosion and flooding from nearby Walnut Creek.

But some trail users worrythe changes will irreparably damage the path's chief features: itstwists and turns, and the overhead canopy of mature trees.

"It's the most beautiful trail I’ve ever seen," said Chris Wolf, a Des Moines resident whowalks the greenbelt trail every day as part of his dog-walking business. "Cutting down 400 trees is egregious. Once the big trees are down, they're down. They're not coming back."

Clive is concentrating on a half-mile stretch of the trail from Northwest 114th Street to the Porter Shelter in Greenbelt Park. Thetrail will be straightened and moved away from Walnut Creek.

The project isthe first on a long list of changes outlined in a 25-year, $41 million master plan for the entire greenbelt system.

This segment of trail was identified as having the most immediate needbecause it's where Walnut Creek flows the fastest, said Assistant City Manager Matt McQuillen.

"If we don't do something it will eventually erode the trail away," he said.

The trail will movea few feet north of itsexisting paths, placing it at least 60 feet from the creek. This will allow Walnut Creek to naturally meander and give the city room to complete bank stabilization improvements, he said.

Two oxbow lakes will be restored as part of the improvements. The lakes will help slow Walnut Creek water flow during heavy rains by giving the creekplaces to naturally pool.

McQuillen said theblind curvesand speeding cyclists have become asafety issueon the heavily used trail.The city will replace sharp turns with "long, slow curves" and widen the path, McQuillen said.

Scott Sumpter, founder of Bike Iowa, said the improvements will benefit cyclists and commuters.

The Greenbelt Trail is a link betweendowntown Des Moines trails and the Raccoon River Valley Trail in Waukee, he said.

"I think the new trail will be good for cyclists, but it may not be as scenic for residents," he said."Those corners get wet and mossy so there's quite a few accidents there."

Sumpter said he's crashed taking a corner on his way to work and has seen others do the same.

To accomplish the straightening project, the city needs to remove hundreds of trees.

Officials estimate about 438 trees will be cleared. That may change if the city identifies trees it wants to save by adjusting the trail's path, McQuillen said.

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