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  • Sun July 27 2008
  • Posted Jul 27, 2008
The Vision Iowa board approved a $1.75 million grant for a new central Iowa trail Wednesday. As a condition of the grant, project partners must raise an additional $550,000 by Nov. 6, 2008. When complete, the 25-mile Ankeny to Woodward Trail will connect five Iowa communities (Ankeny, Sheldahl, Slater, Madrid and Woodward) and four counties (Polk, Story, Boone and Dallas). The project's partners include these nine local units of government and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit conservation group. "The challenge of raising a half million dollars in 120 days is a welcome one when it will result in an exceptional destination for the whole of Central Iowa," said Pat Boddy, Director of the Polk County Conservation Board, which will manage the grant. "We are so grateful to Vision Iowa for this opportunity." Located within an hour's drive of nearly one million Iowa residents, the Ankeny-Woodward Trail could have major impacts on individual and community wellness, quality of life, economic development, tourism, and worker recruitment and retention. "The crown jewel of the project will be a stunning bridge that crosses the Des Moines River in Boone County," said Vision Iowa Board Chairman Andy Anderson. "Iowa artist David Dahlquist did a phenomenal job designing the bridge so that it's both artistic and functional." The former railroad bridge, located between Woodward and Madrid, is now a ghostly row of towering but unconnected piers. When complete, this "destination bridge" will rise 13 stories with special lighting and six overlook spots where people can step aside and enjoy the views. The new trail is part of the Central Iowa Trail Network. The Ankeny-Woodward Trail will connect to the Heart of Iowa Trail. Planned links to the Neal Smith Trail and the Des Moines metro trail network aren't far behind. As these and other links are completed, the Ankeny to Woodward segment will form the center of two connected trail loops, topping 100 miles each. Construction is underway now on sections north of Ankeny. In fact, over-eager bikers and walkers have begun using the unfinished trail, risking their own safety and causing delays for the construction crews. Project partners are erecting barricades and stopping early users-urging patience now so that the trail can be available to everyone in time for enjoying fall colors. If $550,000 is raised before the Nov. 6 deadline, construction can begin on the "big bridge" in Winter 2008-2009. An estimated $450,000 in additional funds will be needed by July 2009 to complete the entire trail, including signage, by 2010. Local partners will also continue fundraising for trailhead amenities such as parking and restrooms. The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation has created a website with more trail details and online donation instructions at www.inhf.org/a2wtrail.htm. Donors can also phone in credit card gifts (800-475-1846) or mail contributions to INHF; 505 Fifth Ave., #444; Des Moines, IA 50309. For more information, visit www.inhf.org or call 515-288-1846. Trail Progress So Far After several years of planning and negotiations, the Ankeny to Woodward Trail officially launched in November 2005 when the Union Pacific Railroad sold the 25-mile corridor to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation at a reduced price, providing the project's first major donation. The corridor is now owned by each of the five city and four county jurisdictions along its length. In 2006, the city of Woodward paved a 1,000-foot section. In 2007, trail construction was completed on the "bookends" of the trail: approximately 1.3 miles of trail was paved in Woodward, and 1.5 miles was paved in Ankeny. By fall 2008, the 19 miles of trail surface that connects Ankeny, Sheldahl, Slater and Madrid will be completed. Vision Iowa awarded its $1.75 million grant on July 9, 2008-on condition that project partners raise an additional $550,000 before Nov. 6, 2008. If fundraising is successful, construction can begin on the "big bridge" in Winter 2008-2009. An estimated $450,000 in additional funds will be needed by July 2009 to complete the entire trail by 2010. Several other major public and private funders have helped the trail progress this far: Federal SAFETEA-LU, the federal Transportation Enhancement Program, the State Recreational Trails Fund, Community REAP Grants, The Wellmark Foundation, Madrid Friends of the Trail, and others. Paid project consultants, Snyder and Associations (lead engineering firm) and Shuck-Britson (bridge engineering firm) have also provided in-kind and financial contributions.

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