2013

December

STEAMBOAT ROCK, IOWA - (December 28, 2013)It's been noted that one of the benefits of the proposed Iowa River Rail Trail is the fact that Hardin County (as well as more of Marshall County) will be connected to the regional network of recreational trails being developed in Central Iowa. However, it's much easier to visualize this when looking at a map of the existing network of Central Iowa trails with the proposed IRRT added to this map:

Green lines represent existing trails; blue lines roads with bicycle lanes; red line the future Iowa River Trail.
As you can see from the attached graphic (courtesy of the Iowa Department of Transportation and Google Maps) you can visualize how there will be nearly a contiguous system of trails from Steamboat Rock all the way to the Des Moines metro area and beyond, minus a couple of short gaps in the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail between Melbourne and Collins - both of which have very safe and short detours on lightly traveled roads. Active efforts are also underway to close other gaps in the regional trail network, 


including between Perry (Raccoon River Valley Trail) and Woodward (High Trestle Trail); along with some initial visioning of connecting the Chichaqua Valley Trail from Baxter to Melbourne.
Studying this map, one can really begin to appreciate how the former network of railroads once connected communities small and large across Iowa in the early parts of the last century. The renaissance of connecting many of these communities again along these same corridors - this time with mult-use recreational trails - is an exciting phenomenon reinvigorating many of the communities along these paths with visitors once again.The addition of the Iowa River Rail trail will become a key extension of the backbone of this trail network north from Marshalltown into Hardin County, and provides a mechanism to eventually connect Alden, Iowa Falls and Ackley to the network. Beyond that, it even becomes possible to fathom an eventual connection to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls metro area as the trail network comes within striking distance of those cities!


MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (December 28, 2013)TRAILS, Inc. (Trail Resources and Iowa Land Stewards, Inc.), a non-profit organization formed to assist with development, operation and maintenance of the future IRRT segment in Marshall County, has created a facebook page as well as atwitter account to keep the public informed of efforts to develop the IRRT! Be sure to "like" them on facebook, as well as subscribe to their twitter feed, for regular updates.

November

ELDORA, IOWA - (November 18, 2013)Excitement is growing over the project to convert the former Iowa River Railroad right-of-way to a multi-use recreational trail that will eventually stretch from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock. Over the past several weeks, a number of key hurdles have been crossed including securing state grant funding to purchase the right-of-way for eventual trail development; the formation of a trails commission in Hardin County and a certified nonprofit in Marshall County to oversee development, operation and eventual maintenance of the trail; and the support of local government entities in both counties for the project to move ahead.Railroad salvage operations began this past summer, and in many spots the rails and ties have already been removed. Consequently, there has been a number of reports of individuals already trying to use the future trail ranging from walkers and joggers to reports of ATV's utilizing the corridor.

While it's great to see the public eager for this project to move ahead and start using the future trail corridor for recreational activities, it is important to stress that the right-of-way is currently CLOSED to the public and that individuals must refrain from accessing the corridor until further notice.

Of primary concern is public safety. Railroad salvage operations will not be complete until the summer of 2014, and as a result there will continue to be heavy construction equipment operating along the right-of-way until those activities are finished. In addition, there is much work to be done to stabilize and properly secure bridges and other structures to make them safe for eventual public use; grading and surface stabilization of the former rail bed that will be required; signage that must be installed and a host of other activities that must be completed before the trail can be safely opened to public use.

Individuals who fail to heed warnings to avoid accessing the right-of-way areat risk of jeopardizing their own personal safety as well as the safety of others.

In the near future, representatives from both Hardin and Marshall Counties will work together to craft a plan for development, operation and maintenance of the eventual trail. Part of this work will include developing rules and regulations that will eventually dictate the types of recreational activities permitted on the trail to ensure the public can best benefit from the future trail corridor while ensuring the concerns of adjacent private property owners are properly addressed. Until that time, the public should refrain from use of the corridor to avoid creating conflicts which could hinder trail development efforts and general support of the project.

Updates on the Iowa River Rail Trail project, including information on how the public can best assist with efforts to develop this future new recreational asset in Hardin and Marshall Counties, can be found right here on this web site!


October

ELDORA, IOWA - (October 18, 2013) - Reprinted with Permission from the Hardin County Index: "Rail Trail gets $750,000", By Rick Patrie, News Editor: HARDIN COUNTY - The Iowa Department of Transportation, this past week, informed the Hardin County board of supervisors that there's about three quarters of a million dollars in grant money there for the taking, if the county board ops to take a stake in the Iowa River Scenic Trail project.

It is a $775,000 recreational trails grant overseen by the state highway department.

The 'scenic trail' is that much discussed-nearly-33-mile-long recreational trail that, if finally approved and undertaken, would follow the defunct route of the Iowa River Railroad.

The grant is contingent on some public or non-profit entity here in Hardin (and another in Marshall County) agreeing to assume ownership of the trail route. The grant, by most estimates, would be far more than enough to cover their cost of acquisition and would also accommodate a first round of basic improvements. The owner would be committed to the longer term upkeep of the trail. Right now, most eyes are on Hardin County as a purchaser, going in partnership with the city of Marshalltown which had reportedly approved the idea. The trail would run from north of Steamboat Rock to Marshalltown and supporters of the idea are proposing to accommodate multiple recreational uses, from snowmobiles to bicycles and everything in between.

It was only a couple of weeks ago the Hardin County Board of Supervisors seemed faced with a snap decision on whether to take a big stake in the proposed trail.

Now, it looks as if the board still has until November to decide.

The board hints at support for the project, but says a lot of questions need to be answered about the county's long term maintenance costs and liability issues.

A couple of weeks ago, board of supervisors member Ron Rickles said the county is favorably inclined toward the project, but he said he would like to see "a little more skin in the game," meaning ownership stakes by the communities in the county along the trail route, something more than just partners in planning.

But indications are now that the county may end up being the local stakeholder of record, along with the city of Marshalltown.

This week supervisor Brian Lauderbach said that should the board sign on to the project, they would be looking toward putting the trail under the management of a new semi-autonomous county commission.

Those annual maintenance costs could run about $5,000 or less a year, he says.

Lauderbach says the trail issue first came up well over a year ago when it was clear that the railroad was finished. He said, that in mind, he went out and did some trail riding himself on other similar projects here in Iowa and in southern Minnesota.

Right now the rail bed here in Hardin and Marshall counties is effectively in the possession of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation based in Des Moines. It acquired it from the defunct railroad. The rail bed is now being cleared of rails and ties and other hardware.

The railroad has reportedly agreed to leave behind a stock of the ties, which could be used to form and fit up the trail base where it passes over bridges along the route.

Yard by yard, the rails and the ties have been pulled, stockpiled and readied for reclamation of one kind or another. Work has been underway since earlier this summer.

The salvage company at work now has worked as far north as Eldora. Much of the track and ties have already been removed within the city limits leaving behind some idea of the scale of the proposed trail, should it come to pass.

The salvage firm has been working from Marshalltown moving north since June, and right now it counts 17 plus miles torn up and largely moved off site, and about seven or so to go to the spot north of Steamboat Rock.

The rail line north of that point will remain operational, serving the ethanol plant north of Steamboat Rock, with other rail connections in Ackley.

The rail stock being removed, which is not excessively worn, is actually shipped right back into the use circuit, going into service with other rail lines with which the company is associated.

Those rails that are worn, will be melted down for scrap. Same goes for the other accessories of steel pulled up.

The ties come in two varieties, the company says. On this job they are really in good shape, or they are a total loss. That's likely because of the extensive tie replacement that was done about five years ago when the then Iowa River Railroad was founded by three local shippers hoping to make a run of it moving corn to the ethanol plant at Steamboat Rock.

That renovation meant a lot of good ties, and more as you moved further north on the line.

South of Union, the rail line was in far less favorable condition.

The ties that aren't useable once again are not a loss however. They are shipped to a receiver in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and eventually they are ground up and combined with other combustable materials to be used to power utility generators in the Wisconsin area.

The company operator indicated that a lot of the projects on which the reclamations are done, end up being directed to rails to trails programs such as the one under consideration here.

The city of Marshalltown has been a strong supporter of the project, although Marshall County has balked at involvement.

Supporters of the project say they are proposing an ownership stake that insures the local owners will be fully able to decide up or down on any questions involving substantial expenditures for future maintenance.


MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (October 16, 2013) - "Bike Trail Receives $770,000 Grant" by Stephanie Ivankovich, Staff Writer, Marshalltown Times-Republican

AMES, IOWA - (October 8, 2013) - GREAT NEWS! A press release from the Iowa Department of Transportation today announces some exciting news for the IRRT project:

"The Iowa Transportation Commission today approved nearly $3.5 million for eight State Recreational Trails Program projects. The State Recreational Trails Program was created in 1988 with the purpose of developing and maintaining recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both motorized and nonmotorized trail users. This funding is available to cities, counties, state agencies, local governments and nonprofit organizations through an annual application based program. Projects and approved funding amounts:
Ankeny Connector to High Trestle Trail (Polk County Conservation Board and Ankeny): $782,500
Bellevue Rivervue Trail - Phase II (Bellevue and Jackson County Conservation Board): $260,774
Bridging the Gap: Phase I Dry Run Trail - Connecting Decorah's Trout Run Trail to the Prairie Farmer Recreational Trail (Winnishiek County Conservation Board and Decorah): $380,265
Farragut to Shenandoah Trail Connection (Farragut): $487,500
Iowa River Scenic Trail (Hardin County Board of Supervisors and Marshalltown): $775,000
Multiuse Mississippi River Trail, Riverdale Section, Phase 2 (Riverdale): $318,644
Pioneer Beach Road Trail (Orleans and Dickinson County Trails Board): $371,479
Raccoon River Valley Trail to High Trestle Trail Connector (Dallas County Conservation Board): $92,897"


ELDORA, IOWA - (October 2, 2013) - Reprinted with Permission from the Eldora Herald-Ledger: "Proponents Pose Recreation Trail to Board of Supervisors", By Rick Patrie, News Editor: HARDIN COUNTY - There has always been a certain urgency to the planning going on for a pedestrian, bike and otherwise recreational trailway between Steamboat Rock and Marshalltown.

The idea burst into full bloom a few months ago, with deadlines already looming from the beginning.

But, in truth, the project took on a renewed energy after several years of contemplation - when the owners of the Iowa River Railroad finally pulled the plug on their operation.

The rail line closed, and even now the ties and the rails are being removed, but for categorization purposes, the Iowa Department of Transportation calls the route a transportation corridor.

And with that designation, folks, particularly in and around Iowa Falls, saw the chance for a bike and recreational trail. They got into gear and launched the idea of converting the railroad bed to recreation.

They came to the Hardin County Board of Supervisors this week, and once again, there was a deadline looming and a sense of urgency. The board said it needed time, however.

Trails advocate Cindy Goodner met with Hardin County Supervisors Wednesday with a resolution asking the County to be a "planning partner" as the project moves forward, but the big ticket proposal was that the county sign on to be an owner of the portion of the trail which runs through Hardin County. Owner and in one way or another take on responsibility for upkeep in the long haul.

Though the board didn't balk at the idea, but it did say it needed time, and answers to a lot of questions before signing on to any proposal of that nature.

Goodner told members that there is something of a soft deadline on the matter, as the state trails association has all but officially told enthusiasts here that it would be at the top of the agency's list for funds receipt, and that could very well mean that Iowa River Recreational Trail might receive nearly three quarters of a million dollars for purchase of the rail bed. She said that the Iowa River Recreational Trail idea was recommended by the State Rec Trails Program to receive $780,000 for land acquisition and bridge stabilization last week, the final approval, although not guaranteed, looked highly positive, and could be finalized by later next month. This means the county could have ownership of the trail 100 percent funded by grants.

The trail has already been purchased from the defunct railroad by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and is essentially being held in trust, while recreation interests work out a new set of owners from among public and even private entities running the route through Hardin and into the middle of Marshall County.

Goodner said there is more federal money potentially available to help with repairs and bringing it into full use status. And more yet for some upkeep going forward.

But in the case of the state grant program, the project organizers have to submit for the big grant by the first days of October, and to do so they need some kind of commitments abut ownership partners.

The Board promised to try and investigate the matter expeditiously and move as quickly as possible, but all the members said they couldn't act until a lot of questions were answered, particularly about long term legal liabilities and costs of the maintenance and improvements of the thirty plus miles of property.

The City of Marshalltown had passed a resolution stating its intent to own and maintain the rail trail portion of the project from the City of Marshalltown all the way to the Marshall/Hardin County line to the north. Marshalltown agreed to do this under the auspices of a new non profit, Trails, Incl, a group whose creation was in face actually facilitated by the Marshalltown city council. Trails, Inc. has since raised nearly $20,000 to help with maintenance costs.

Goodner said the cities of Eldora and Steamboat Rock have both signed resolutions in support of the project, and have agreed to be "planning partners" as the project moves forward - but it should be stressed that planning partners status does not imply joining the ownership circle.

Goodner said the Central Iowa Snowmobilers of Marshalltown have agreed to donate materials and labor to make the bridges usable for a rough trail (hikers, mountain bikers, snowmobiles).

She said the Iowa State Snowmobile Association and Iowa DNR have $20,000 set aside from the state snowmobile pass fund for this project if it moves forward.

Goodner told the Hardin County board that rail and ties are even now being removed and what will be left will look like a rough gravel road. She said Wednesday that the salvagers have agreed to leave behind a portion of the wood tie stock to help new owners fill in the gaps on bridges. Everyone agreed they would try to meet again within a couple of weeks for a followup on lots of unanswered questions.


September

GIFFORD, IOWA - (September 29, 2013)
Crews salvaging rails and ties from the IARR corridor have made it as far north as Gifford. While visiting the future trail corridor this weekend, large stacks of railroad ties were observed being loaded on trucks in both Union and Albion destined for new uses elsewhere. As can be seen from these photos, once the rails and ties are removed only the ballast remains leaving a nice, stable base that will eventually serve as the foundation for a future trail surface.


left: Railroad salvage equipment between Gifford and Eldora.


bottom right: Once the rails and ties are removed as shown in this picture taken in Gifford, a nice base is left that will serve as the eventual foundation for a future trail surface.

A photo of the corridor with rails and ties removed north of Union. Imagine in the future enjoying the fall colors on a crisp autumn afternoon while cycling, jogging or walking on this stretch of future trail adjacent to the Iowa River!

ELDORA, IOWA - (September 25, 2013) - Much work has been accomplished over the past few weeks as the Iowa River Rail Trail project continues to move forward! Here are the latest updates, courtesy of Cindy Goodner:
Steve Throssel and Cindy Goodner attended the Hardin County Supervisors Meeting today (September 25th) with a resolution asking the county to be a planning partner as the project moves forward, and to ultimately own and maintain the section of trail within Hardin County. Look forward to updates on the outcome of these discussions soon.
The City of Marshalltown passed a resolution (as noted in the news item below) accepting ownership and maintenance of the trail from Marshalltown north to the Marshall/Hardin County line. They agreed to do this with the help of a new non profit, Trails, Inc. Trails, Inc. has since raised nearly $20,000 to help with maintenance costs!
The Cities of Eldora and Steamboat Rock have both signed resolutions in support of the project, and have agreed to be planning partners as the project moves forward.
The Central Iowa Snowmobile Association and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources have $20,000 set aside from the state snowmobile pass fund for this project if it moves forward.
The Central Iowa Snowmobilers of Marshalltown have agreed to donate materials and labor to make the bridges usable for a rough trail (hikers, mountain bikers, snowmobiles) which means the trail could be used in its current form relatively quickly once initial development work is completed.
The rail and ties are being removed now, what will be left will look like a rough gravel road until further efforts to develop a more permanent trail surface begin.
The Iowa River Rail Trail was recommended by the State Rec Trails Program to receive $780,000 for land acquisition and bridge stabilization last week, with final approval expected sometime in October. This is GREAT NEWS and means Hardin County could have ownership of the trail funded entirely by grant monies!Hardin County Supervisors report that they have not had much public input on the project up to this point, so trail advocates and supporters are strongly encouraged to reach out to the Supervisors and encourage them to support the trail!

´╗┐MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (September 10, 2013) - "Bike Trail Agreement Discussed at City Council" by Stephanie Ivankovich, Staff Writer, Marshalltown Times-Republican

ELDORA, IOWA - (September 3, 2013) - Reprinted with Permission from the Eldora Herald-Ledger: "Salvage begins on RR", By Rick Patrie, News Editor: "HARDIN COUNTY - Salvage crews were seen at work in Eldora, removing spikes and disconnecting ties as the close-down on the Iowa River Railway is taking shape.

The earthern rail bed is now property of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, which is essentially taking title to help facilitate the eventual transfer of the property to public interests along the rail route between north of Steamboat Rock to Marshalltown. The track stock is the salvage property of the closed railroad line.

The foundation said this week that it didn't know exactly how long the reclaiming of the rail stock would take, but they anticipated it would be a matter of a few months.

The Iowa River Railroad, which runs through Hardin County is looking to salvage its steel inventory and shed its vacated rail bed. Scenery is the marketable commodity now.

The rail line has, in the last two years, divested itself of that long run of rail bed last put to use hauling grain, for the most part within Hardin County, and the Steamboat Rock ethanol plant.

Today, some outdoor enthusiasts think the rail bed could live again as an artery for moving tourism.

The dream is to convert the long embankment to a variety of traffic modes, potentially everything from bicycles, to walking, to ATV's, even to folks on horseback. Right now the rail bed is secure and stable, and word was that the numerous bridges along the way have been judged safe for light traffic of this kind."


MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (September 2, 2013) - "Supports Iowa River Railroad Trail Concept," editorial in Marshalltown Times-Republican.

August

ALBION, IOWA - (August 29, 2013)
A segment of the proposed Iowa River Trail Trail in Marshall County has national significance as part of a nation wide trail linking both coasts of the United States. The American Discovery Trail stretches for 6,800 miles from Delaware to California and is the nation's first coast-to-coast non motorized trail linking connecting cities, small towns, urban, rural, forests, mountains and prairies across the United States.

From the ADT's web site: "The ADT is all about connections - people to people, community to community, urban areas to wilderness. It provides the opportunity for the most adventurous to travel from coast to coast, truly discovering the heart of America. More importantly, it provides millions access to a trail system that improves quality of life and protects our natural resources. The ADT connects five National Scenic, 12 National Historic, and 34 National Recreational Trails; passes through urban centers like Cincinnati and San Francisco; leads to 14 National Parks and 16 National Forests; and visits 10,000 sites of historic, cultural and natural significance. It is truly the backbone of the National Trails System." Several individuals have hiked the entire length of the trail across the US and have shared their travel journals which can be found on the internet.


In Iowa, the northern route of the ADT enters the state near Davenport and crisscrosses the state, eventually departing from Council Bluffs. The Iowa route of the ADT incorporates a number of existing multi use recreational trails with the balance of the route on more lightly traveled highways and roads.Locally, the official ADT route follows the Comet Trail from Beaman to Conrad and continues west on highway D-67 to the Grundy/Hardin County line, where it turns south on S-75 traveling through Liscomb to Albion. The route then continues south from Albion on Highway 330 where it eventually jogs back into Marshalltown before heading back south toward Melbourne where it connects to the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail.

The completion of the Iowa River Rail Trail will add yet another recreational trail link to the ADT and provide a much safer corridor for users to enjoy on this stretch of the American Discovery Trail.


MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (August 10, 2013)Members of the Central Iowa Snowmobilers Club, a very active group of snowmobile enthusiasts from Marshall, Grundy, Hardin, Tama and Story Counties, have been working to procure enough bridge decking material to cover every bridge on the proposed trail! The material was donated by the Union Pacific Railroad, and members of the club are donating their time and equipment to haul the material home and eventually install it. Thank you!

LISCOMB, IOWA - (August 3, 2013)
Removal of the rails, ties and other railroad salvageable items began on the IARR corridor in July. Starting in Marshalltown, crews have been working their way north and were observed working between Albion and Liscomb the last week of July as seen in the photos below. Salvage work is anticipated to be completed during the month of September: below left:Crews removing tracks south of Liscomb. below right: Rails and ties removed on the north side of Albion.

July

Trail Tidbit:
With the two groups working very hard and recommendations from the engineering firm, it has been decided to move forward with the Book-End approach utilizing the best conditions of the trail at this point. Marshalltown is going to construct a 10' wide concrete trail starting from the very south point, approximately 7000' in length. With Hardin County starting clear on their North end, this will be a finished trail from S-56, finishing two bridges, including the bridge that goes over the Iowa River to the 9th Street crossing near the elevator. Hardin County's section will differ slightly from Marshalltown, in that it would be an 8' concrete trail with a 5' soft extended trail shoulder on one side and a 2' shoulder on the other. This would help to accommodate snowmobile usage in the winter and minimize maintenance issues on the concrete path. Also connecting to Pine Lake State Park which already has a very good following.  This IS The Start of a GREAT New Adventure....as the trail continues to be developed


HARDIN & MARSHALL COUNTY, IOWA - (July 31, 2013)
The Iowa River Rail Trail project is moving forward! Steering committee members will be presenting a resolution to the cities of Eldora, Steamboat Rock and Union during each of those cities' respective council meetings during the month of August encouraging each city council to support the project through their respective communities. Passing these resolutions is an important milestone and will help strengthen grant applications submitted on behalf of the project.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation submitted a funding request to the Iowa State Recreational Trails Program on behalf of Hardin County and the City of Marshalltown on the first of July. Andrea Chase, Trails Coordinator for the INHF, shared that the application contained more letters of support than any other she had prepared during her career indicating the strong local support for this project.

The rail corridor was officially purchased by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in July. Through this action, INHF holds the title to the property preserving it for trail development until local government jurisdictions can take over ownership of the property. Rail salvage is underway and should be completed by September.

A community group of leaders in Marshalltown have organized a non-profit organization to benefit the trail project called Trail Resources and Iowa Land Stewards, Inc (Trails, Inc) lead by Joel Greer. Hardin County Recreational Trail Committee Members will meet with the group soon to discuss long range planning for the project.

This project is a tremendous opportunity for Hardin and Marshall Counties. Educating local citizens about the benefits this project will bring to the Greenbelt is extremely important. Take the time to talk with your friends, neighbors and especially your local elected officials and voice your support for the Iowa River Rail Trail Project!

´╗┐

MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (July 9, 2013)
"Bike Trail Supporters form Non Profit" by David Alexander, Staff Writer - Marshalltown Times-Republican

ELDORA, IOWA - (July 6, 2013)
"Rail Bed Eyed for Big Trail Segment" by Rick Patrie, News Editor - Hardin County Index

UNION, IOWA - (July 6, 2013)
"New Bike Trail in the Works to Pass Through Union, Liscomb" by Rob Maharry, Editor - The Conrad Record


June

MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (June 25, 2013)
"Council OKs Trail Use of Old Railroad Corridor" by David Alexander, Staff Writer - Marshalltown Times-Republican

MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (June 23, 2013)
"City Council Should Vote Yes to Support Trail" by editorial staff - Marshalltown Times-Republican

MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA - (June 23, 2013)
"City Considers Acquiring Land for Bike Path Expansion" by David Alexander, Staff Writer - Marshalltown Times-Republican