A banner year for the Iowa River Trail

Officials:?Many gains were made in 2017

Pictured is the Iowa River Scenic Nature Trail route from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock. A committee of Hardin and Marshall County residents have been working aggressively over the years to develop the paved, multi-purpose, 34-mile trail.

Pictured is the Iowa River Scenic Nature Trail route from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock. A committee of Hardin and Marshall County residents have been working aggressively over the years to develop the paved, multi-purpose, 34-mile trail.

Iowa River Trail enthusiasts will remember 2017 as a year where a lot of earth was moved and concrete poured.

Once complete, the trail will connect seven communities in Marshall and Hardin counties, linking Marshalltown, Albion, Liscomb, Union, Gifford, Eldora and Steamboat Rock.

It will offer users opportunities ranging from camping to hiking to snowmobiling.

Local work this year included paving from the Ann Keyser Trailhead at Wilson Circle to 12th Street, and from 12th Street to the Summit Street Bridge.

TRAILS, Inc. is a Marshalltown-based volunteer group working to complete the hard-surfaced, 10-foot wide trail from Marshalltown to the Hardin County-Marshall County line.

President Terry Briggs said Friday a contractor has also completed paving the 12th Street to Summit Street Bridge section.

All that remains is the final inspection.

Once accepted by the city council, the project will be complete.

Work on the trail will resume in the spring of 2018, Briggs said.

The retired physician and avid bicyclist said TRAILS, Inc. is eagerly looking forward to next year.

“We are working to get engineering and so forth for the Summit Street Bridge and Iowa River Bridge,” Briggs said. “We have a grant to repair the bridges, but it is questionable … it might be better to replace them … because they are not in good shape. Engineering firms looking at them do not feel they are repairable.”

Regardless, Briggs said he and TRAILS, Inc. are thrilled with progress to date.

“I never thought we would be this far,” said Briggs.

The beginnings

IRT origins can be traced back to the fall of 2014, when a group of Hardin County and Marshall County businesses, civic leaders and organizations collaborated on a $2 million application to the Iowa Parks Foundation.

Central to the application was the proposed development of the Iowa River Trail, whose right-of-way was the 37-mile defunct Iowa River Railroad line running from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock. (Some local residents would recognize it as the former Minneapolis and St. Louis Rail Road Co).

While not funded, the application was a finalist, and was awarded with $20,000 in IPF funds to further develop its application and a coach to assist.

It also generated a level of enthusiasm which has not waned.

Later, Marshalltown Second Ward Councilor and Mayor-elect Joel Greer, along with others, took a leadership role in advancing the IRT.

“My favorite recent project is IRT,” Greer said prior to the Nov. 7 municipal election. “When the county supervisors declined the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation’s offer to acquire title to the trail, there was little time to convince the city council to take title, form a non-profit corporation (TRAILS, Inc.) apply for 501(c)(3) status and recruit 22 board members. We have raised over $4 million and have paved the first two of 34 miles.”

Last year the Marshalltown City Council voted to spend $30,000 on the trail.

Greer said it was necessary for the city to commit funds so as to demonstrate local match, and thereby be more competitive for funds from federal and state grantors as well as business and charitable foundations.

(To date, the Ann C. Keyser Charitable Trust and the Martha Ellen-Tye Foundation have made significant awards to the IRT),

“A fair amount of funding has also come from state and federal grants,” said Briggs. “If we do not get them, someone else will. Once the funds are allocated, we want to go aggressively after our share.”

For more information, visit iowariver trail.com.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com