The Mid-America Trails and Greenways (MATAG) Conference will hold is biannual meeting in Des Moines this week, and the group’s four-day agenda features a mobile workshop in Perry as Trail Town USA.
The MATAG conferees will tour Perry Monday, Oct. 26 from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., hearing stories from community leaders about making Perry a cycling destination — from redeveloping our brownfields to implementing a Trail-Friendly Businesses program.
Perry will be represented at the mobile workshop by a six-person team: City Administrator Sven Peterson, Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Wilson, former city administrator and development consultant Butch Niebuhr and local entrepreneurs and bike-trail enthusiasts Jay Hartz of the Hotel Pattee, Jenny Eklund of La Poste and Lee Coons of the Raccoon River Valley Bicycle Co.
“It’s another chance for us to promote Perry and Perry’s bike-trail culture,” Peterson said Monday. “The Raccoon River Valley Trail is a big success story, and a lot of places around the Midwest are looking to develop similar amenities for health and wellness and also economic growth.”
The Perry team will discuss how Perry became Trail Town USA by garnering local business support and generating excitement through trail-centered events, according to the MATAG program.
The city of Perry is “a prime example of a community that has fully embraced and leveraged the economic opportunities that come with being one of the trail towns along the 89-mile (72-mile loop) Raccoon River Valley Trail,” said a MATAG spokesperson.
The MATAG conference attracts attendees from states throughout the Midwest, including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.
The meeting is an up-scaled version of the annual Bike Trail Tourism Conference sponsored by the Common Thread consortium of central Iowa communities that gathered in 2014 and 2015 at the Hotel Pattee in Perry.
Both conferences explore similar topics, including the latest trends and techniques in trail development, maintenance and promotion as well as strategies for using a trail as a tool for economic development and active living.
The four-day MATAG conference is divided into classroom sessions and off-site workshops, such as the mobile workshop in Perry, and usefully combines the theory of trails and greenways with concrete examples of the best practices in the field.