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TRAILS Inc. raised more than $2M in three weeks

fT-R PHOTOS BY MIKE DONAHEYA portion of the Linn Creek Recreational Trail (LCRT) in Marshalltown adjoining the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA property near the 100 block of Washington Street.is shown The Iowa Rivers Edge Trail connects to the LCRT beginning at the Ann Keyser Trailhead.

Marshalltown and Marshall County business, local governments and residents did it again in meeting a fundraising challenge.

Over the past 3 ½ weeks, TRAILS, Inc. officials raised $2.1 million in required matching funds for a federal grant application for the 34-mile Iowa River’s Edge Trail (IRET) — a proposed multi-purpose recreational trail for bicyclists, birdwatchers, canoers, hunters, hikers and more from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock in Hardin County.

The groups behind the trail already had $616,000 on hand, making the total $2.7 million. Marshall County pledged $2 million, the city of Marshalltown $250,000 and the city of Liscomb $10,000, Schneider said, and Albion passed a resolution supporting the efforts.

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

HCTC also contributed funds, but that amount could not be confirmed by press time.

The Ann Keyser Trailhead is accessed from the 200 block of West Madison Street in Marshalltown. As part of the Destination Iowa grants for the Linn Creek District, the trailhead will be moved to South 6th Street near the skatepark in the future.

The total remaining project cost is $19 million, said Schneider.

The fundraising goal was reached with teamwork, and a message that all of the towns along the route would benefit from spending generated from trail users. Another key in the messaging is that the IRET would aid area businesses in recruiting employees to area businesses.

“We are grateful for the significant support we received from Marshall County, the city of Marshalltown, the town of Liscomb and other contributors who made monetary donations large and small,” Schneider said.

Marshall County Conservation Board Director Emily Herring, a member of the TRAILS Inc. board of directors, is also excited about the project.

“There are many benefits to the proposed IRET, obviously providing recreational benefits is not only an important aspect for Marshall County Conservation, but to Marshalltown Parks and Recreation, and the other communities that will be positively impacted. It also has a huge economic development impact,” she said.

A portion of the Iowa Rivers Edge Trail near the 400 block of South Ninth Street in Marshalltown and looking west.

Herring also thanked those that provided monetary donations to meet the matching fund goal or provided support.

Andrea Boulton of the INHF emphasized that small businesses in the hospitality industry and in retail along the route will benefit significantly. They cited examples of the economic impact generated by trails throughout Iowa.

Boulton specifically pointed to a study published by the Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission – a council of five county governments headquartered in Decorah – in 2021 showing the positive economic development benefits of trails in northeast Iowa.

Boulton and colleagues at INHF are preparing the ATIIP grant application, which will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“We are thrilled that TRAILS, Inc. was successful in spearheading the matching fund campaign,” she said. “All of the contributors – be they businesses, city and county governments and residents are to be congratulated for meeting the challenge and their investment.”

The initial fundraising deadline was June 17.

However, it was extended to July 17 last week.

“We would have met the June 17 deadline,” Schneider said recently. “The extra time will allow us to review our application before formally submitting it next week.”

“Let’s Finish the Trail” was the rallying cry made before a large group of attendees May 23 at the Marshalltown Arts and Civic Center.

Schneider and TRAILS Inc. Vice President Bruce Johnson of Marshalltown were ebullient in their enthusiasm that the goal was attainable. The May 23 meeting was successful in generating awareness, enthusiasm and support for the trail, which has been a vision for a number of recreational enthusiasts for the last 11 years.

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.

In addition to Albion and Liscomb, the trail will pass through Union, Gifford and Steamboat Rock, all in Hardin County. Several miles of trails have already been paved from Steamboat Rock to Eldora.

In Marshall County, the Iowa River’s Edge Trail begins at the Ann C. Keyser Trailhead near the 200 block of West Madison Street — as part of the Destination Iowa grants the city has received, the trailhead will be moved to South 6th Street near the skatepark in the future — and ends at Radio Tower Road. The Keyser Charitable Trust has funded trail construction.

The trail project started in 2013 when INHF purchased an abandoned railroad line from Marshalltown to Eldora on behalf of those two communities.

Later, those communities purchased it from INHF, said Boulton.

Other grants were secured to make that purchase.

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

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

Boulton said a decision on the ATIIP grant is expected this fall.

There will be competition, she said.

“The trail along the beautiful Iowa River will be a unique experience, drawing visitors from every corner of the state and the Midwest,” said Johnson at the May 23 meeting.

Marshalltown and Marshall County have historically responded 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 to ambulances for UnityPoint Health in Marshalltown and more. For more information, or to donate or make a pledge, contact or info@trailsinc.org., or trailsinc.org, P.O. Box 1386, Marshalltown, Iowa, 50158.

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