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What do trails mean to industry?

Trails will have financial impact

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
A former Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway bridge has been renovated to accompany bicyclists, hikers and sight-seeers in Steamboat Rock.

Editor’s Note: The following article was published in the Firelands Rails to Trails (FRTTI) newsletter. It is reprinted as a public service to highlight the Iowa River Trail’s economic impact to Marshall County.

FRTTI is a not for profit organization which owns and manages trails in Huron County, Ohio.

ALBION — The familiar song of the eastern goldfinch can be heard amidst the sound of the wind through the trees along an old industrial corridor. This corridor was once part of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway and will soon become the 34-mile Iowa River Trail from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock.

It will be one of the most scenic bike trails in the Midwest.

The bird’s chirping is momentarily interrupted by the rhythmic staccato of one of many press brakes operating next door at Raymon Company. Founded in 1979, Raymon manufactures a custom line of air diffusers and grilles for commercial buildings. They operate from a 60,000-square-foot facility with 90 employees. CEO Larry Raymon comments on the new trail, with construction underway and sections open to trail users in Marshalltown and Steamboat Rock already.

“The proposed Iowa River Trail will offer landscapes that include 29 bridges — four of them cross the Iowa River — and have multiple community access points with towns every six to seven miles. It represents the vision of community leaders who recognize the importance of investments that result in recreational activities, cultural opportunities, improved quality of life and improved health.”

Raymon said the IRT’s impact will resonate through the decades.

“For the next 100 years, as thousands and thousands of bikers, hikers and others pass through bike trail communities, they will not only provide current financial impact on local economies but they are also potential investors in future population growth of these communities.

“Prosperity, a larger tax base and a greater labor pool are outcomes that are possible for those communities with the willingness to invest in their future.”

Raymon’s facility sits on fifteen acres adjacent to the soon-to-be IRT. He is no stranger to conservation efforts which he combines with forward thinking and respect for our nation’s history. Behind the plant are walking paths with restored natural prairie grass, wildflowers, and an apple orchard for employees. Many employees frequent this preserve on lunch breaks and are extremely excited about the IRT as a venue for recreation and as another way to get to work. Many employees live within an easy bike ride of the plant.

Adjacent to the IRT, Larry is building a park dedicated to Veterans.

“The Veteran’s Park is not only a tribute to all veterans who have honorably worn the uniform of the United States, it is also a trailhead with restrooms and a park. It will be an encouragement for all to see the largest self-propelled howitzer available during the Vietnam War. The park is privately funded by my family without government investment or outside contributions. It sends a message to our community and to my current and future employees that we care deeply about respect, honor, and those that will follow us.”

The company’s website proudly proclaims: “Heartland Values. America’s Vision.”

Raymon continued: “We are a family-owned, private business that is successful without government subsidies, grants or loans.”

Marshall and Hardin counties are similar to Huron County, Ohio. Marshalltown — pop. 27,552 — and Eldora — 2,732 — are not unlike Norwalk and Monroeville; and the area spanned by the Iowa River Trail lies roughly in between Des Moines and Waterloo, much like the North Coast Inland Trail spans an area between Toledo and Cleveland, Ohio.

This part of Iowa has a similar industrial and agricultural base as in Ohio with fine communities and people who take pride in their hard work. This is evidenced by the well-kept appearance of heir homes, farms, businesses communities, and trails.

Iowans love their state, and take their trails seriously.

FRTTI trustee Joe Mantey of Ohio — a Raymon Co. sales representative — took a tour of the factory.

During it, no fewer than six employees said: “Did you hear we’re getting a bike trail?”

The point is none of them knew he was a volunteer with an Ohio bike trail group, but the excitement was in the air.

Mantey and his family weren’t in Iowa strictly on business. They came to ride the many trails Iowa offers. Three such vacations in four years.

“You’re going where on vacation?” was a frequent question from friends in Ohio when told about their plans to bike in Iowa.

Blank looks often accompanied these questions since Ohio and Iowa are geographically similar and not the typical beach or mountain vacation destinations.

The Manteys, like many others they met, came from near and far to ride the concrete trails and what they found were wonderful people and communities — with outstanding scenery along the way.

“They get it,” said Mantey of Iowa trail providers.

“Trails do several things. They provide safe and scenic recreation, alternative transportation, tourism revenue, and as Raymon put it so well, they keep young, talented, healthy, professional people in their small towns and cities and attract more and more every day. How could you ask for anything more?”