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Despite frustrating delays, the Buena Vista County Trails Advisory Committee is ready to hit the road rolling next spring with an on-road biking system that has been some five years in the making.

Signs to mark the countywide trail have now been received, but frozen ground means they probably won’t go up until after spring thaw, according to chairperson of the volunteer group Jon Kruse.

“We also have a couple of minor changes yet to make in the map, and then we can start work on creating a promotional map that can be put out across the state,” he said. “Once it is all signed, we would like to put on an activity and ribbon-cutting - my best guess is that may take place next summer.”

The group was established in hopes of drawing attention to the county and its attractions, luringing biking enthusiasts to visit, and giving locals a safer avenue for exercise.

The on-road routes will come through, into or past every community in the county, and the council is offering a sign for use to every community that would like to establish a trailhead area, as well as one for the popular Linn Grove Dam area. Storm Lake will likely have two trailheads, at the west and north edges of town.

“The mayors who have been active with the group are all in agreement, but in some case there will be new mayors we need to reach out to,” Kruse said.

It will be up to each town to decide how they wish to celebrate or promote the trailhead coming to their community.

The group hopes to develop a website in cooperation with the county, and use signs around the system to place QR codes, which riders can scan with their phones to access maps and information. The overall map will highlight over 20 attractions around the county that riders might like to visit - parks, museums, historical sites, scenic locations, the fairgrounds.

In addition to routes accessing the towns, the system will include stretches to ride from Newell to the Sturchler Pit developed outdoor area, from scenic Linn Grove to the BV County Park, and a loop accessing the historical village of Hanover near Alta.

The route is also designed to hook up with bike routes in surrounding counties for those seeking longer adventures, particularly with Clay County to the north and Sac to the south. There is a future capability of joining to a Cherokee County network moving west on C63, and some discussion of a connection with Pocahontas County from C49 or doing a side route from Albert City. Out of both safety concerns and a new state fee to erect signs on a highway, the group earlier changed plans to locate part of the trails network on the side of highways and opted instead for paved county roads. It now uses only very short stretches of highway where it could not be avoided - Highway 100 coming into Storm Lake from the west, and Highway 71 from Sioux Central School into Sioux Rapids.

“We haven’t ruled out trails on 7 or 71, when we are able to someday convince the state to build wide, hard-surface shoulders that would be safe for riders,” Kruse said. Unfortunately, the council came to a realization early in its efforts that establishing a stand-alone bike trail around the county is an unlikely prospect. Years ago, some abandoned railroad right of ways might have been a possibility, but have since reverted to adjacent landowners. “Building off road trails without something like that to work with would cost half a million to a million dollars per mile, and no one is going to have that kind of money in their budgets,” Kruse said.

Plans are currently to mark the trail on the highest-traffic roads first next spring, or as close to that as works into the project for the county engineer’s crews. A county foundation grant over two years ago provided funds to have the signs made, but lengthy negotiations with the Iowa Department of Transportation slowed the effort somewhat.


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