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  • Posted Jun 3, 2006

The Wabash Trace Nature Trail is a converted railroad right-of-way running over 60 miles through the scenic Southwest Iowa countryside from Council Bluffs to Blanchard on the Iowa/Missouri border.

Eighteen years into a three-year project, Bill Danforth still speaks of the trail like it's one of his cherished children. Taking calls from his corporate office above his Shenandoah garage, Danforth occasionally interrupts his work as a computer programmer to take a ride. "It's a great day when all you have to do is get on your bike and ride," Danforth said. With 70 bridges and 63 miles of trail to tend, the job as the president of the Southwest Iowa Nature Trail organization comes with some long days. But Danforth and the board of directors have help. Trail elves. "I'll get a call that a tree has fallen, grab the chain saw and by the time I can get to the trouble spot it has been fixed by the trail elves," he said. He explains that many of the volunteers aren't on a roster, but rather anonymous custodians of the trail. Trail elves, volunteers, area landowners and fans of the trail all pitch in to keep the trail cleaned, cleared and ready for use. The project was built and is maintained completely by volunteers.

http://wabashtrace.connections.net/
One super fan is Greg Losh. Losh helped to organize the taco ride from the Council Bluffs trailhead to the Mineola Steakhouse. On sweet summer Thursday nights the Trace parking lot is overflowing and hundreds of riders make their way 10 miles south to eat at the Mineola Steakhouse and destinations farther down the trail. From the back of his bike, Losh pulls a trailer packed with a full-size stereo, a cooler and a Tiki torch for stops along the trail. His music sooths a crowd hungry for an intoxicating mix of exercise and party. He also carries annual trail passes to sell to new riders and a welcoming smile to all he meets. "This is not a private party," Losh said from the side of the trail donning his "Team Amnesia" jersey. "Everyone is invited." Danforth raves about the trail-hopper turned member of the board of directors. "He wants to make sure he is doing everything he can for the trail," Danforth said. The efforts are paying off. The Thursday night ride gets bigger each year and includes occasional live concerts and weekly themes. "Last year we did 45 Thursdays," Losh said. A Tuesday night ride to Silver City organized by Xtreme Cycle is picking up steam and the Rails to Trails Conservancy is estimating that the trail now brings more than $400,000 a year to the economies of the cities, towns and villages situated along the trail.
Top Trail Rides • Pucker Ride - June 10: 24-mile trail ride and party. Contact (402) 510-9434. • RAM Ride - June 17: 38-mile Ride Around Mills County. Contact (712) 527-4727 • Meteor Ride - Aug. 19: Night trail ride and party. Contact (712) 246-4444. • Weekly taco ride - Thursdays trail ride. Contact http://sports.groups.yahoo.com/group/thursdaynightride • WARTS Ride - Aug. 19: Wabash annual ride to Shenandoah. Contact: (712) 246-4444
Trail Mix • The Wabash Trace - Nature Trail is paved with crushed limestone and is 62.3 miles long. • The 70 bridges constructed to complete the trail have a total span of more than 1.5 miles. • The annual pass fee is $10. The daily use fee is $1. • The trail is operated solely on daily and annual pass fees and donations. • SWINT's budget to operate the trail is approximately $15,000 per year. • Fee drop boxes are located at trailheads, participating Omaha and Council Bluffs bike shops or by mailing a self-addressed stamped envelope to: SWINT, P.O. Box 581, Shenandoah, Iowa 51601.
To volunteer to help maintain the Wabash Trace Nature Trail contact Bill Hillman, (712) 246-4444 or e-mail billh@heartland.net BY MARK DAVIS WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

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