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  • Rob Maharry
  • Sat July 06 2013
  • Posted Jul 6, 2013
A new bicycle path that would start near Steamboat Rock and end in Marshalltown could provide a tremendous economic boost to the small communities between the two cities, according to a Hardin County Trails official.

Cindy Goodner, the chairwoman of the board for the Hardin County recreational trails, said that planning for the project is currently in the early stages as the group looks to find funding and approval from the communities involved. It would travel along the now abandoned Iowa River Railroad and pass through Eldora, Gifford, Union, Liscomb and Albion before ending in Marshalltown.

The estimated cost to purchase the 34 mile stretch of railroad is around $750,000, and Goodner said that the Hardin County board is workiing to find grants through the state to help fund the project. Earlier this year, they applied for a federal recreational trails grant but did not end up receiving it.

As its last city council meeing, the city of Marshalltown resolved that it would own and maintain the portion of the trail that goes through Marshall County with the help of a local trails commission after Liscomb's council could not get enough support to participate in the project.
"We're trying to educate city councils and boards," Goodner said. "The goal is to get commitment from the cities."

There are currently 17 paved bicycle trails in Iowa according to the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. The IBC also reported that in 2011 bicycle trails provided $21 million in sales tax to the state of Iowa, and Executive Director Mark Wyatt estimates the industry brings in almost $1 million a day in direct and indirect spending. In addition to cycling, Goodner added that the area could be used for horseback riding and snowmobiling during the winter.

Wyhet said that he was excited about the possibility of the Hardin County trail and that cyclists could combine the trail with the Waterloo/Cedar Falls trail in a single trip.

"They (trails) bring economic benefit to small farming towns where people are coming in, buying food and drinks and seeing these places," Goodner said.

Wyhet added that since the Raccoon River trail was constructed between Des Moines and Jefferson, 19 new businesses have opened up shop along its path.

Union Mayor Tom Pieper said that while he's intrigued by the idea of a trail, he isn't so sure about the huge economic boon that others are predicting. The issue is on the agenda for the next city council meeting.

"The communities are going to do upkeep, so it's not going to be a free ride," he said. "We're going to have to make sure the benefits outweigh the expense."

Pieper added that becuase the proposed trail runs along the edge of Union, cyclists might not be able to see the businesses that would stand to benefit the most.

"The council's going to have to decide whether or not there will be enough community suport for it," he added.

According to Goodner, there is not current timetable for how soon development could begin, as funding is still uncertain. She added that the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation might assist Hardin County by purchasing the area and then selling it back to them because the owners of the railroad are eager to sell it.

"Smaller communities really showcase that Iowa hospitality," Wyatt said. "Bicycling is driving a lot of business, and that's amazing."

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If the trail were to follow the Iowa River it would be very scenic!

#1 - Bacchettaman posted Jul 12, 2013


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