$2.7 million in pledges toward Iowa River’s Edge Trail needed before June 17 deadline

T-R PHOTOS BY MIKE DONAHEY — TRAILS Inc. President Jeff Schneider of Marshalltown directs attendees’ attention to the Iowa River’s Edge Trail map during a fund-raising/informational session at the Marshalltown Arts and Civic Center facility Thursday.

“Let’s Finish the Trail” was the rallying cry made before a large group of attendees Thursday night at the Marshalltown Arts and Civic Center.

The goal: finish The Iowa River’s Edge Trail, a 34-mile multi-purpose recreational trail for bicyclists, birdwatchers, canoers, hunters, hikers and more from Eldora to Marshalltown.

A total of $2.7 million in pledges are needed by the June 17 deadline, said Jeff Schneider of Marshalltown, president of TRAILS Inc. and Bruce Johnson, vice-president, also of Marshalltown. Both were effusive in their enthusiasm that the goal was attainable.

The $2.7 million is needed to match a proposed federally-funded Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program (ATIIP) grant. The city of Marshalltown is the lead applicant, and the project is endorsed by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF), Hardin County Trails Commission (HCTC) TRAILS Inc. and more.

“We can do this, but only with your support and that of others,” said Schneider, who said $616,000 has been pledged to date from a variety of sources.

An “Unsafe Bridge” sign marks a wooden bridge at the end of the Iowa River’s Edge Trail at Radio Tower Road. This bridge, among others, would be replaced if grants are approved to complete the trail from Eldora to Marshalltown.

The total remaining cost on the project is $19 million, he added.

The trail will be paved with concrete and will be wide enough for users and emergency response vehicles too. In addition, a number of bridges in both counties — ranging from small wooden to steel trestle — will have to be reinforced or re-built.

The trail, which has already been paved from Steamboat Rock to Eldora, will go through Albion, Liscomb, Union, Gifford and Steamboat Rock.

In Marshall County, the Iowa River’s Edge Trail begins at the Ann C. Keyser Trailhead near the 200 block of West Madison Street and ends at Radio Tower Road. The Keyser Charitable Trust has funded trail construction.

The trail project started in 2013, when the INHF purchased an abandoned rail corridor running from Hardin County into Marshall County. Other grants were secured then, too.

A “Trail Closed” sign marks the end of the Iowa River’s Edge Trail at Radio Tower Road west of Marshalltown.

Since then, TRAILS, Inc. and the HCTC have raised funds from grants, fundraising appeals made to groups, businesses, corporations and more.

“I wholeheartedly support the proposed trail through Marshall and Hardin counties,” said former state representative Mark Smith – a longtime Marshalltown resident and now mayor of West Branch. “The trails we have here in Iowa are beautiful, benefit the environment, improve quality of life by encouraging health activities and benefit local communities.”

Schneider and Johnston emphasized that small businesses in the hospitality industry along the route will benefit significantly. They cited examples of the impact generated by trails throughout Iowa.

“We can only do this with your financial support, big or small,” Schneider said. “Every contribution matters. Let’s get a usable trail in less than five years.”

If the ATIIP grant is approved, the project is estimated to be completed in 2029. However, that date is contingent upon numerous factors.

“The trail along the beautiful Iowa River will be a unique experience, drawing visitors from every corner of the state and Midwest,” Johnson said.

Other fundraising and information events are scheduled for May 30 in Marshalltown.

“The Iowa Valley Bicycle Club and others will be assisting us,” Schneider said.

The Albion Rail-Trails Festival in Albion, scheduled for May 31 and June 1, is also part of a comprehensive plan to support the effort.

“My wife and I have firsthand experience observing the economic value recreational trails have provided in other communities and are fully supportive of having a first-class trail ‘closer to home’ so our local communities derive the same benefits,” said Christopher Duree, the former chancellor of the Iowa Valley Community College District.

The Marshalltown area has historically responded well to fundraising challenges over the years — be it meeting annual United Way goals, passing a bond issue to fund a new joint fire-police station or ambulances for UnityPoint Health in Marshalltown. For more information, or to donate or make a pledge, contact or INFO@TRAILSINC.ORG., or TRAILSINC. ORG, P.O. Box 1386, Marshalltown, IA, 50158.


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