Good News For Iowa Cedar Valley Nature Trail


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This article appeared in our local newspaper, "The Cedar Rapids Gazette" today (7/22/22). The Cedar Valley Nature Trail is part of the designated route for the Great American Rail Trail. It is good news for those of us locals who ride this trail frequently.

to finish Cedar Valley Nature Trail
Allocation will pay for paving last 16 miles of 52-mile trail
By Gage Miskimen, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn and Black Hawk counties will receive $3.5 million of federal American Rescue Plan funds allocated by the state to finish paving the last 16 miles of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail that runs between Evansdale and Hiawatha. Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office announced the Destination Iowa grant funding Thursday, with the trail project being one of three to receive funds in this round of allocations. Applications for projects in Cedar Rapids and Marion still are awaiting word on their fate.

Once completed, the Cedar Valley Nature Trail will have a paved 52 miles. The trail also links other well-known trails in Eastern Iowa, including the CeMar, Grant Wood and Highway 100 trails in the Cedar Rapids and Marion areas. Those using the trail also can make their way down through Johnson County.


A sign in Hiawatha points out the cities along the Cedar River Trail and Cedar Valley Nature Trail. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Mark Mueller cycles along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail in Hiawatha in 2021. The state on Thursday awarded $3.5 million in federal funds to finish paving the final 16 miles of the 52-mile trail between Hiawatha and Evansdale. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

“We’re very excited,” Linn County Conservation Director Dennis Goemaat said. “We’ve been trying to get the trail paved for the entire length for many years, and we’ve been whittling away at it.” The funding will allow the two county conservation departments to jointly finish paving the last miles of the historic trail, which still is surfaced only with crushed limestone and dirt through Black Hawk, Buchanan and Benton counties. The project also will include bridge replacements, box culverts and watershed controls. The converted rail-trail is part of the nationally recognized American Discovery Trail and Great American Rail-Trail. The trail flows through various small communities like Robins, Lafayette, Center Point, Urbana, Brandon, La Porte City and Gilbertville.

Fully paving and completing the Cedar Valley Nature Trail has been a goal since the project began in the mid-1980s. “I think it's really going to increase tourism,” Goemaat said. “I think people will come from out of state even to use this trail. People love the hard surface trails. To be able to go from one community to another is really beneficial for the whole area.” Business owners Mike and Vicky Goble, who own Jams Coffee Bar in Urbana, have benefited from their business being close to the trail since opening last year. In fact, the couple got permission to add a paved pathway connecting their business to the trail to provide easy access for bikers. The bar offers coffee, beer, wine, flatbreads, pizzas and snacks.
“The bike trail was one big reason we selected this spot,” Mike Goble said. “This spring and summer, a significant amount of our business is bike traffic, especially on the weekends. They’re a huge part of our customer base.” The Gobles installed bike racks to hold up to 70 bikes near their outdoor patio. “We’ve been very supportive to be able to expand this trail,” Goble added. “I’m glad they got the grant to continue with the mission to pave through these other towns, too.”

So far, Linn County’s Water and Land Legacy bond issue has funded some of the paving done so far. In November 2016, 74 percent of voters OK’d the bond issue to improve water quality, build parks and trails and preserve natural areas. Conservation Deputy Director Daniel Gibbins said passing the bond helped provide funding leverage to apply for the federal money. “With our residents voting for that bond, it was really important to be able to leverage that funding,” Gibbins said. “These small towns in rural areas, a major trail like this can be an economic lifeline. This can be a growth opportunity for communities. The trail extends though five counties and that’s a lot of rural Iowa that’s going to have huge benefit.”

Last year, hard surfacing from Center Point to Urbana was completed on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail — a 6-mile stretch — thanks to two Iowa Department of Transportation grants.

Funding in this round of the Destination Iowa program also went to the city of Maquoketa and Jackson County Conservation, which were awarded $750,000 for improvements to the Prairie Creek Recreation Area, including the installation of a whitewater paddling course on the Maquoketa River, a championship- caliber disc golf course and ADA-accessible hiking trails.

Also, the city of Colfax was awarded $400,000 for improvements to Quarry Springs Park, located off Interstate 80. Funding for the “Relax in Colfax” project will assist with the creation of a 30-site RV campground, a shower house and bathrooms and an ADA-accessible dock.
Locally, the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion have both applied for federal funds through the Destination Iowa allocation program.
In May, Cedar Rapids applied for $27 million — later pared to $8.4 million — through the Destination Iowa program to help pay for the $119 million Greenway Recreation and Revitalization project along the Cedar River near Czech Village and NewBo. In June, Marion applied for over $3.5 million in funds for the Uptown Central Plaza project, as well as the final phase of the long-awaited CeMar Trail. The total cost of the two projects is just over $9 million.
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Lisa Breitfelder of Cedar Rapids talks with friend Cindy Zevenbergen of Marion while walking April 9 along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail near Boyson Road. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

A freshly paved stretch of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail in Center Point is shown in this 2017 photo. A section from Iowa Street to the Grubbs Creek Bridge near Ash Lane was paved that year. (The Gazette)
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This is definitely good news for the locals out your way Alan!

I hate to rain on your parade but I have mixed feelings about paved trails. Many I've ridden are not maintained well with root heaves and frost damage. It isn't much of an issue for runners, joggers & walkers but in the extreme, it can be dangerous for bikers. On my last ride on the GAP trail just south of Pittsburgh, I hit a root heave so hard it broke the latch on my battery and it dislodged from the bike. I had just gone from full sun to shade and it was difficult to see. Some trails get so bad that I see dedicated riders with cans of orange spray paint marking the rough spots.

Many state & local governments, as well as private organizations, provide funding to build new trails but allot next to nothing for maintenance. Paved trails are great to ride when in good shape but far more expensive to maintain than groomed packed gravel.

Not all paved trails are like this though so do enjoy the new pavement and hope that it lasts more than a few years.

Sorry for my pessimism.