• Posted May 15, 2008

Numerous paved multiuse trails are under construction or in planning across Iowa.

From the Des Moines Register By MIKE KILEN Lisa Hein and Andrea Chase wield color markers and spin two maps around a conference table until, after an hour, both are filled with circles, arrows and lines. This represents the frenetic pace of trail building in Iowa. Numerous paved multiuse trails are under construction or in planning across Iowa. The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation's Hein and Chase track the trails' progress because the nonprofit agency works with federal, state and local agencies to get them started. "I've been working on trails for more than 20 years and it was rough going at first," Hein said of convincing Iowans and landowners of their worth. "Now, we have a lot of places to get outside and be healthy." Just in central Iowa, several large projects circle the metropolitan area. Hein expects the pace of new projects to slow, however. Old railroad beds used for many of the trails will become less available to purchase because railroad companies are holding on to them as demand increases to ship alternative fuels. But there's much for bikers and walkers to look forward to in the coming years. A rundown of some multiuse trail projects: DOWNLOAD a map of central Iowa bike trails. Central Iowa Ankeny is a big winner: Three trails are in planning or under construction to connect the booming northern suburb to other trails. 1. Ankeny to Woodward. Pieces of this trail are under construction in Woodward and in the northern part of Ankeny that will connect a city trail north to Slater, then west to Madrid and Woodward. Estimated completion: 2011. 2. Ankeny to Neal Smith Trail. The trail will run from Oralabor Road in south Ankeny at Carney Marsh, roughly parallel to Iowa Highway 415, connect with the Neal Smith Trail near Sycamore Access on Saylorville Lake, which runs south to downtown Des Moines. Estimated completion: Fall 2009. 3. Ankeny to Gay Lea Wilson Trail. Connects Carney Marsh east and south to Gay Lea Wilson. Estimated completion: 2013. 4. Waukee to Perry/Dawson. Runs northwest from Raccoon River Valley Trail in Waukee to Perry, and west through Dawson, connecting with the Raccoon River Valley Trail near Bagley, creating a 70-mile loop. Estimated completion: Depends on grants and donations. 5. Heart of Iowa trail gap. Closing a longtime 2.5-mile gap in the popular trail between Cambridge and Maxwell. Under construction this summer. Estimated completion: Fall. 6. Walnut Creek trail. A vital one-mile connection from trails in the western suburbs to the west side of Des Moines along North Valley Drive to the Bill Riley Trail and downtown Des Moines. Estimated completion: Fall. 7. Slater to Ames. Bike lanes completed last fall from Slater to Kelly, with proposals to finish lanes to Ames. OTHERS: In planning: Downtown Des Moines to Carlisle; Martensdale to Indianola - completion of the two would create a loop tying together the Great Western Trail and the Summerset Trail; Heart of Iowa between Collins and Rhodes; Connector of Gay Lea Wilson and Chichaqua Valley Trail; trail northwest from Monroe to near Prairie City in Jasper County. DOWNLOAD a map of bike trails in development around the state.
Outstate 1. Lewis and Clark Trail. Planning for bike trail from Wabash Trail in Council Bluffs north to Sioux City. Also, plans for pedestrian bridge over Mississippi River to Omaha trail system. 2. Mississippi River Trail. Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation officials have mapped an on-road bicycle trail along the length of the Mississippi River in Iowa. For maps and information, contact Andrea Chase at (515) 288-1846. 3. Belmond to Mason City. Land purchased and beginning boundary survey. 4. T-Bone Trail in Cass County to Sauk Rail Trail in Carroll County to Lake View and north to the Iowa Great Lakes and its trail system using paved shoulders along U.S. Highway 71. In planning. 5. Cedar Rapids to Muscatine. Varying stages of development. Linn County is planning a trail to Ely. Johnson County has prioritized a trail from Solon to Iowa City - and eventually to West Liberty and West Branch. The city of Muscatine is working on its trails, which would connect to country trails to the west. Muscatine County is not working on trails at this time.

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