Last week I had the pleasure of attending a trails conference in Iowa. Yes, Iowa – that state many might give a passing glance out their window while flying over to Chicago, or either coast. However, there is a lot going on in the Hawkeye State, and much we can learn from in our fair region.

The gathering I attended, called the Mid-American Trails and Greenways Conference, took place in Des Moines, the heart of everything Iowa. This includes a robust and continually growing trail network of more than 1,200 miles, mainly using abandoned rail corridors.

The trails in Iowa have become a huge attraction for locals and visitors alike. So much so that the main agency for promoting their development, the nonprofit Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, has gone so far as to boldly proclaim the state as the “World Capital of Trails.”

It’s hard to argue their claim with such prominent destinations as the High Trestle Trail, which highlights a half-mile, 13-story high bridge across the Des Moines River valley, one of the largest trail bridges in the world. In addition, the Raccoon River Valley Trail boasts a 70-mile loop trail which stands as the longest such loop route on planet Earth today.


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