Citizens air views on connector trail at Dallas County Conservation Board public hearing

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About 50 people attended the Dallas County Conservation Board public hearing Monday night at Forest Park Museum in Perry.

Citizens had a chance to weigh in Monday night on the Perry-to-Woodward connector trail when the five-member Dallas County Conservation Board held its latest public hearing on the question.

About 50 people filled the conservation board’s meeting room at Forest Park Museum in Perry to listen to Richard Voelker, transportation group director at the Ankeny-based engineering firm of Snyder and Associates, who gave a 30-minute presentation on potential alignment options for the connector trail.

Richard Voelker
Richard Voelker

Voelker, who had a hand in building the Raccoon River Valley Trail and numerous others, gave a detailed and thorough analysis of the possible routes, including their safety from a public health standpoint and feasibility from an engineering standpoint. He gave particular attention to the Perry-to-Bouton leg.

Voelker noted the historical uniqueness of the abandoned railroad right of way between Perry and Woodward and the way it differs from the former railbeds of the two trails it would connect.

“Getting those two to connect with just a mere nine miles seems like a short, fairly simple connection,” Voelker said. “Well, one of the things that’s kind of tricky about it is that both of those two trails started out as former railroad grades and were acquired soon after the railroads ceased operation. This is a section where the railroad ceased operating quite a long time ago, and all of the former railroad line went back into private hands. So none of this is necessarily available to us unless the current owner is willing to work with us for purchase of that former right of way.”

Lorinda Inman
Lorinda Inman

After Voelker’s presentation, Lorinda Inman, chair of the Dallas County Conservation Board, opened up the meeting to public comments, and many people spoke over the course of the next 70 minutes.

Dan Spellman of Perry presented a letter to the conservation board signed by Chad Hoffbeck and Richard Jones, presidents, respectively, of Perry Industries Inc. and Perry Economic Development Inc., two local investment groups.

“We strongly support the ‘railroad right-of-way Route’ which is Alignment A on the Snyder and Associates map options,” the letter read. “We think this is the preferred route which would enter eastern Perry on 130th St. (Park Avenue) and connect through Perry to the RRVT at the downtown Perry trailhead. This is a logical and safe connecting point for such trails.”

Dan Spellman
Dan Spellman

Spellman asked the conservation board to “revisit” Alignment A. “We think, for a number of reasons, that would be the best route for the communities involved in this project,” Spellman said. “We think it’s important to enter Perry from that northern area. There’s going to be new housing areas, new projects going in Perry, and that would be the best route, as far as we’re concerned, to get to the downtown area and connect with the Raccoon River Valley Trail.”

Alignment A would give Perry the “best bang for the buck” in terms of economic benefit, Spellman said, both “for the Perry community and for the Perry businesses and to provide uses the services they need. It would be a logical and reasonable way to provide services to users of the trail as they enter Perry and come towards the downtown area.”

He noted the “tradition” of the High Trestle Trail and the Raccoon River Valley Trail is to use the railroad right of way as much as possible.

“If there’s a chance of working with adjacent property owners, we’d be interested in trying to help with that,” Spellman said. “We want to support you as much as possible. If money’s a consideration, I think that’s something where we could try to help from the local contributions. We’re willing to look at that, to work with Mike and try to raise money. We don’t think money should be the final consideration. We think we need to come up with the best route for this trail within the tradition of the High Trestle and the Raccoon River Valley trails.”

John Powell
John Powell

John Powell of Perry asked whether there were specific landowners unwilling to sell or give easements over their property. Dallas County Conservation Board Executive Director Mike Wallace said, Yes, some were willing and some were unwilling, but he declined to identify anyone by name.

Voelker described the county’s “fallback position,” which is to put the trail in the public right of way, that is, along the road or in the ditch.

“Basically, we can always put the trail into existing public right of way,” Voelker said. “That’s kind of our fallback position if the railroad right of way is not available. If we can use the railroad right of way for a certain portion and then we can’t, then we look at connections to get us to where we can build a trail and find a way to make that work. Zig-zagging all over the place probably isn’t that desirable, but it really takes the path of the willing, who’s willing to work with us to sell right of way.”

Local business owners also made the case for Alignment A.

Jay Hartz
Jay Hartz

“I have a lot at stake in terms of my business model and cycling,” ┬ásaid Jay Hartz, owner of the Hotel Pattee in Perry. “My personal opinion on this is patience. I think it is important to stick to the rails-to-trails philosophies that have happened so far. It may take more time to get that particular route due to the landowners in question and so forth, and I would also reiterate that it’s not about the money. Look at this room–one of the reasons I’m so proud to be here is because of the citizens of Perry and this region that just believe in this.”

Many other citizens asked questions or made comments, including Perry’s mayor, several city council members and the Perry City Administrator. The strengths and weaknesses of every option were pointed out in turn, with a general consensus among the people on the economic importance of “getting it right” and with praise for the Dallas County Conservation Board for its diligence in pursuing a solution to this tricky puzzle.

Wallace said he found the hearing “very productive and positive.” He said he believes people now have a clearer sense of the challenges involved and understand no final decision has been made on any particular route.

“The question is still open,” Wallace said. “We will continue to pursue all the possibilities.”

The complete videos of the comments can be seen here and here.

Video courtesy Pegasus TV 12

The cooperation of landowners along any route chosen for the Perry-to-Woodward connector trail will be crucial to the project's success. Source: Farm and Home Publishing
The cooperation of landowners along any route chosen for the Perry-to-Woodward connector trail will be crucial to the project’s success. Alignment A (red line) and Alignment C (green line) each have several variations. No route has been chosen, but investigations and discussions with property owners continue, according to Dallas County Conservation Board Executive Director Mike Wallace.
Source: Farm and Home Publishing

 

 

bike trail directory
The red box indicates the rural Bouton home Darrin and Laura Holst built in the former railroad right of way. The Holsts attended Monday’s public hearing. “I kind of built my house on Alignment A,” Darrin Holst said, “so sorry about that.” His remarks were met with laughter and goodwill. Source: Farm and Home Publishing

 

 

 

 

6 COMMENTS

  1. Why where the comments against using plan A for the bike trail omitted from the video? For safety reasons 130th and 128th streets are not safe routes there is less traffic but a higher percentage of wrecks and fatalities. Its seems to me after looking a the bike trail maps that if connector along 141 connects to the trail that already in place it is a distance of four blocks difference between the north route and the south route to get the the Hotel Pattee. when riding from the east in to Perry when I get to the trail head already there I have three options ride 20 miles south to Dallas Center or 30 miles to Jefferson or 8 blocks to the Pattee Hotel After attending the Dallas County conservation board meeting about the bike trail from Perry to Woodward it seems ironic to me that of the people that spoke in favor of using 130th and 128th street as a connector for economic reasons only two actually live in Perry. If these people are so committed to the well being of Perry and it’s growth they would have built there new homes in Perry and helped the tax base for the city of Perry. Of the people in attendance only a hand full live within the city limits of Perry. If they believe that Perry is such a great place to live they would have built there home in Perry and not outside the city limits. As for the Perry Industries Inc. And the Perry Economic Development Inc. If a Four lane highway to Perry didn’t help I can’t see where a 10 foot wide bike trail will have a impact on the economic growth of Perry.

    • Thanks, David. Regarding your question, our friends at Pegasus TV 12 will soon upload the video of the full meeting, and ThePerryNews.com will link to it just as soon as they do.

  2. Building a bike trail adjacent to a county road, with no ditch or other type of buffer separating that bike trail from the county road (regardless if that county road is paved or unpaved) is far, far more dangerous to bicyclists than if those bicyclists were on a trail located in the state right of way 40 feet or more away from vehicular traffic on highway 141.

    The safety of those bicyclists out-weighs the economic benefit Perry businessmen expect to gain from the linking of the two existing trails via Alighnment A. Perhaps their rhetoric should be tempered by concern for the safety of others, not for their own economic gain and not for any perceived pie-in-the-sky economic gain to the city of Perry.

  3. I hope we can keep the purpose and theme of the trail which is a scenic view, nice rural landscapes to enjoy while leisurely riding along the trail. Hwy 141 is not the answer. Hopefully with time we can all work together. If the trail goes on 141 I believe bikers will not go into Perry but rather join up with the trail crossing by Burger King. There is a potential to completely miss our downtown area. There are a lot of concerns all around so being patient and exhausting all efforts will be worth it for all involved.

    • Denise,

      If a rider is intent on skipping downtown they have just as easy of an opportunity with Alignment A by going south on 18th and west on Iowa to the existing trail. I think giving them something that is compelling to ride to is the best bet to get people in to downtown.

  4. Even with the comments against Alignment A cut from the video it was apparent that the number 1 topic was centered around safety. Safety of riders, families and children. If that is indeed the major concern and not just lip service to push some other agenda then 128th Place and 130th Street is not the safest option in my opinion. That opinion is based on living on 128th Place for the past 7 years. If I had it to do over again I probably wouldn’t make the same decision, but it’s something that we deal with. The board has an opportunity to not make the mistake of putting a trail, and especially a cycle track, just feet away from the motorists that drive these roads. I think most of us are aware of how a lot of people drive these roads and my time as a teenaged driver is no exception. But maybe you don’t know. Please take a look at a few pictures and a video of a Friday afternoon just last year here – https://picturelife.com/darrinholst/album/EN2G5P0wzFTeiKxJ. This was an impaired driver that took out a 100 feet of the proposed location of the cycle track. He started losing control several hundred feet prior to being stopped by the tree line. There is nowhere to go on this road with a mature tree line on one side and the steep ditch on the other. Yes, this is just 1 incident and it could happen anywhere, but it only takes 1 time and this is why I would not put my children on this trail. As for paving, yes paving would eliminate the dust problem, but it would not eliminate the problem of drivers on a paved back road that will have little to no speed enforcement…they will just drive faster.

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