A happy ending marked the Dallas County Conservation Board’s second public hearing on the question of a bike trail connecting the Raccoon River Valley Trail to the High Trestle Trail.
Mike Wallace, the conservation board’s executive director, told the small group attending the hearing a $100,000 donation was received Thursday from the Raccoon Valley Bank to help toward construction of the link trail.
“It is donations such as this that will leverage other funds that will help us connect two of the premier trail systems in the state of Iowa,” Wallace said.
The Raccoon Valley Bank, with headquarters in Perry and branches in several other towns on the Raccoon River Valley Trail, has a history of strong trail support. In 2010 the bank’s charitable arm made a $75,000 donation toward matching funds for the 33-mile north loop of the Raccoon River Valley Trail, a project completed in 2013.
Terry Nielsen, president and chief executive officer of Raccoon Valley Bank, said the bank’s charitable foundation wanted to continue its support for the trail system with this latest donation.
“Mike came and presented to our groups on and off in the last year or so on the connector trail project,” Nielsen said. “The bank gets asked to do a lot of different things, but this project here we felt was important enough not only to the community of Perry, but the support of our shareholders, the support of our directors and the support of our employees–all were big factors in us committing to this project. We’re happy to be part of it, and we feel it’s a significant contribution. It’s roughly 10 percent of the matched funds needed. So ownership, management, staff–all are on board with this project because we see the benefits of the trail not only to our community in Perry but also to the rest of the High Trestle Trail and the Raccoon River Valley Trail.”
The project’s estimated cost is $5 million, according to Wallace. Federal and state granting authorities typically require 20 percent in matching funds from local stakeholders, so about $1 million will have to be raised locally, and the bank’s donation represents about 10 percent of the fundraising goal.
The connector trail project has already attracted grant funding. About $232,000 has been raised in federal and state recreational trail grants in recent years. The money has funded preliminary engineering and a feasibility study on selecting the appropriate route between Perry and Woodward.
An additional $120,000 grant is pending with the Iowa Department of Transportation and could become available in October, Wallace said. He said the money will be used to buy land and easements and to start construction once a route is chosen.
The connector trail project “is currently in the concept and route-location phase,” Wallace said. Once a definite route is chosen, a design and plan-production phase will follow, he said, including picking a starting place.
Unlike the conservation board’s May 18 public hearing, which drew an overflow crowd of more than 50 to Forest Park Museum near Perry and produced a thorough airing of many opinions on possible routes, Thursday’s hearing at the Waukee Community School District administration building drew a sparse crowd.
Of the eight members of the public who attended the Waukee hearing, none were from Waukee or from anywhere in Dallas County south of Iowa Highway 141. Six were from Perry, including Mayor Jay Pattee, Perry City Council members Phil Stone and Chuck Schott, Perry Assistant City Administrator Sven Peterson, Hotel Pattee owner Jay Hartz and tireless Perry booster Cheri Scheib.
Darrin Holst of Bouton, who lives along one of the possible routes of the connector trail, attended both the May 18 and May 28 hearings.
Dave Milburn, a bicycling enthusiast from the Polk County city of Johnston, rounded out the public attendees. There were also six state and local media people present.
Richard Voelker, chief engineer on the connector-trail project and transportation group director with Ankeny-based Snyder and Associates, repeated his May 18 presentation, detailing to possible routes and their strengths and weaknesses from an engineering and land-acquisition point of view.
Pattee said the board should consider the character or “personality” of the connector trail. He said the humorous suggestion of naming the trail bridge over Beaver Creek the Low Trestle should be taken seriously.
“And then, suddenly, instead of getting from point A to point B, we’re building something that has a personality all its own and becomes a destination,” Pattee said. “Do we build something that will get from point A to point B, or do we build something that is of an interest to the people who are going to use it? I think if there’s any way to attain the latter, we should be looking at it.”
Millburn said he is a member of a cycling club that often rides both the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the High Trestle Trail.
“We just want to get from one point to the other safely,” Millburn said. “I don’t know that as a cyclist that we can have interesting trails everywhere. We don’t need to spend a ton of money at the tax base to keep our little group happy. We’re delighted with the Raccoon River Valley Trail and the High Trestle Trail, and if we can get from one to the other with a minimum amount of expense safely, we’re happy as could be.”
Stone repeated his concerns about the safety and viability of O Avenue coming south from Bouton. He also noted the speed of traffic along Iowa Highway 141 and the obstacles that utility right of ways crossing the bypass will present to a trail.
“I think the point that some people made at Forest Park the other day is that this is not something that we have to decide right now. We have to be sure we find a good solution that works well even though it takes a little more time and a little more effort and perhaps even a little more money,” Stone said.
Dallas County Conservation Board Vice Chair Mark Powell noted the board’s recent interest in a possible route along O Avenue south from Bouton to Iowa Highway 141 and then M Avenue north from Iowa Highway 141 to 130th Street (Park Street) and westerly into Perry.
“I do think it would be a prettier arrival point into Perry,” Powell said. “It’d be different to come in on the north side if that’s feasible. That’s going to take people through neighborhoods and see a lot of things.”
Conservation board Secretary/Treasurer Nancy DeLong said the board “heard that feedback after the last meeting and so started talking about where could we turn off. But I keep coming back to we could end up with a really goofy looking route yet, too, just because if we can’t get landowner easements, we’re going to be doing some of this all over the place because that’s how it’s going to be feasible for the route. We say, ‘Let’s try the shortest spot or the safest spot or the most scenic spot,’ but we still could end up with something that’s a zig zag.”
If the upshot of Thursday’s public hearing reinforced the standing uncertainty of the connector trail route, at least one definite fact emerged, a $100,000 fact courtesy of Raccoon Valley Bank.
ThePerryNews.com photos by Mark Summerson