Another direct route to help bikers and runners travel from Des Moines to Ankeny might be accessible by this time next year.

The Gay Lea Wilson Trail Extension, a 7.3-mile trail that links Ankeny to Des Moines, is slated for completion as early as the middle of 2013, Ankeny officials said.

“The first phase was completed last year and the second phase will be bid in November with work to be completed late next summer,” Ankeny Parks and Recreation Director Todd Redenius said. “Depending on construction costs, we may be able to finish the entire trail next year, or it could take a third phase.”

The idea for the trail first was proposed in 2007 when the Ankeny Parks and Recreation Department completed a parks, facilities and recreation plan, Redenius said.

He said the plan included a series of focus groups and surveys, and trail development — particularly the development of regional trail connections — was listed as the No. 1 priority of Ankeny residents with regard to parks and recreation needs.

“Surveys since that time also have reflected the community’s desire to build this trail, which, when it’s completed, will provide our first direct trail link to Des Moines and fill in a critical missing gap in the metro’s trail loop, which now stretches over 500 miles,” Redenius said.

“Bicyclists will be able to travel to Des Moines to enjoy the various downtown amenities and link up with other trails throughout Des Moines and the metropolitan region.”

Redenius said the trail will be hard-surfaced and 10 feet wide. It will begin at the Carney Marsh Nature Preserve in southern Ankeny and will extend to the northern city limits of Des Moines at Aurora Avenue, where the existing Gay Lea Wilson Trail is located.

The total cost for the project has not yet been determined, Redenius said

“We have to wait for bids to come in during the month of November, but in total, approximately $1 million has been secured over the last several years in grant funding,” he said.

The project is included in Ankeny’s capital improvement program. When bids are received, the City Council will have ultimate approval as to whether, and how, the project moves forward, Redenius said.

“The Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments have worked hard to access grant funding through state and federal sources to reduce the amount of city money that will need to be used for the project,” he said.

Redenius said he feels many Des Moines and Ankeny residents are excited about the nearing completion of the trail.

“Providing multi-modal transportation is important to our residents as we live in an active community and people enjoy the various trail connections,” he said.

Biker Regina Montgomery of Des Moines said she’s looking forward to using the new trail. She bikes with the RAGBRAI Dream Team, which serves at-risk teens, and she said the new route will come in handy for the team.

“It will give us another great option since we all start training from downtown Des Moines,” Montgomery said.

Anne Edwards of Solon said it will give her another reason to visit the area.

“The trail extension is a great idea; since my daughter now lives in Des Moines, we look forward to doing the High Trestle Trail and the new trail next year,” Edwards said. “It’s another great way to keep people active.”

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