Moving forward

Two miles of the Iowa River Trail is projected to be complete in coming weeks

Progress is being made along the Iowa River Trail this week, as construction will begin from 12th Street to the Summit Street viaduct. The work is just a small piece of a much larger project that will take years to complete.

Current funds are estimated at around $5 million which should be enough for completion up to Radio Tower Road. That section will hopefully be done sometime next spring.

Between Marshall and Hardin counties, an estimated $15 million is still needed to finish the project.

The idea truly took form when Terry Briggs, president of TRAILS Inc. in Marshalltown, and Charlie Smith heard about the Iowa River Railroad being discontinued. From there the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation purchased it and then Marshall and Hardin counties teamed up and purchased it from them.

“We were hoping it would qualify as a ‘Rails to Trails’ type of project,” Briggs said.

The Iowa River Trail would be joining an extensive list of repurposed railways across the United States.

State and federal grants were received to get the project in motion.

The first phase of the project was completed last fall, crews started the trail at Wilson Circle and made it to 12th Street.

A project team will begin to work on building a trailhead for the path at Wilson Circle in the near future.

So what are the next steps?

Officials said it would be to fundraise money to fix Iowa River Bridge and two others on trail; and then pave the trail up toward Liscomb.

The trail will run up just north of Steamboat Rock, near Eldora. The residents of Hardin County are working on that section and are moving south, eventually meeting the crew coming from Marshall County.

In total the trail is supposed to stretch about 34 miles through wetlands, high and lowland areas, prairies and forest bottoms.

“It’s going to be a great scenic path for the communities to use and get some exercise,” Briggs said. “It should be a draw to bring people into Marshalltown as well, which will be an economic benefit.”

There is no estimated date when the project will be done, largely varying on how quickly the money comes in and how much.

“If we finished this within 10 years we’d be satisfied,” Briggs said. “Sooner would be wonderful, but it could also take longer.”

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