BIKE TRAIL RECEIVES $750,000 FEDERAL GRANT FOR NEW LOOP
The Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT), one of central Iowa’s most popular recreational attractions, received a $750,000 federal grant to help develop a 72-mile loop trail that should become a big tourist draw, officials said.
The existing trail, covering 56 miles from Jefferson to Waukee, is used by more than 100,000 people annually. A planned 33-mile extension will permit bicyclists to travel on a loop from Herndon east through Jamaica, Dawson and Perry, then southeast through Minburn and Dallas Center to reconnect with the current trail on the northwest corner of Waukee and back west. It can be ridden in one or two days.
When the new “north Loop” is eventually completed, the RRVT will include a total of 89 miles, making it one of the longest recreational trails in the nation.
“This is fantastic. It will be a great opportunity for biking, walking, and recreation,” said Mark Wyatt of North Liberty, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. He predicted the expanded trail has the potential to become a regional tourist attraction, like the popular Root River Trail in southeastern Minnesota.
The $750,000 grant, awarded by the Iowa Transportation Commission, will be a big help in developing the trail extension. The state commission last year helped to jump start the Raccoon River Valley Trail extension with a grant of $780,830.
Construction on some of the trail extension’s bridges could begin this summer, but the first segment probably won’t be opened to the public until 2009. The timetable for full completion of the extension depends on approval of additional grants.
The trail extension will be constructed on a former Union Pacific railbed that is being “railbanked.” In the event a railroad someday needs to be rebuilt on the corridor, the trail right-of-way must remain available for that use, according to Lisa Hein, an official with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, which has helped communities acquire land for trail development.
Chuck Offenburger of rural Cooper, the RRVT Association secretary, on his website stated that when the North Loop is completed, “We will begin seeing individuals, families and other groups of cyclists and trail users coming to the RRVT and spending several days on our trail. They’ll be looking for fun places to stay overnight, neat restaurants and bars, ice cream shops, local museums, theaters, live music venues and all the rest.
“With all this funding coming available now,” Offenburger stated, including the state grant and other moneys for related projects, “the challenge for all of us is to help get all those amenities developed. There will be a lot of investment made by people wanting to go into business in our trail communities, and I think we’ll also see a boom in home construction along the trail, too.”
Article Published: 01-01-2010