• Rachel Garst
  • Tue January 17 2012
  • Posted Jan 17, 2012
The proposed “Herndon to Coon Rapids Trail” through northern Guthrie County has received a federal grant of $300,000 from the Federal Recreational Trails program.

This grant was among six announced January 10th by the Iowa Transportation Commission.A total of $1,239,400 in funding was awarded through the program, created in 1991 for the purpose of developing and maintaining recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both motorized and non-motorized trail users.

The new $300,000 Fed Rec Trails grant will be added to the existing $365,000 in Transportation Enhancement funds already secured for the same project. Both grants are to be used in the initial corridor acquisition phase of the project.

Match for both grants is being provided by a land donation by the private company Shippers Consortium, directed by Roger Koppen. This gift consists of over seven miles of abandoned rail corridor between Herndon and Bayard. Says Koppen, who is also CEO of Farmers Cooperative, “We are pleased to support this project due to the many benefits it will bring to Guthrie County.”

An ISU Extension economic impact study estimates that, when completed, this 17-mile trail will serve over 50,000 annual users, between snowmobilers and bike riders. These users will bring more than $1 million in annual spending, $200,000 of new income, and twelve jobs to the region.

Snowmobilers, and possibly hunters, will be some of the first to enjoy the benefit of the recreational corridor once it’s secured and opened for public use. Snowmobiles are able to use temporary bridges and operate with their own insurance. The segment between Herndon and Bayard lies on the path of a planned cross-county snowmobile route from Saylorville to Lake Okoboji.

Paving the trail will take much longer, but once surfacing is complete, the trail is expected to attract large numbers of bike riders coming from the Des Moines metro area along both branches of the Raccoon River Valley Trail. The RRVT segment through Panora has been complete for many years; and the segment through Perry is currently under construction.

The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF), a Des Moines-based non-profit that plays a lead role in many land protection and trail development projects across the state (including the acclaimed High Trestle Trail Bridge) is also assisting with the project. INHF will play an intermediary role in the corridor acquisition phase, assisting with negotiations with landowners all along the route, including the BNSF railroad, the Iowa Department of Transportation, and various private landowners.

These negotiations will start in 2012, and their progress will determine the final routing and costs for the trail. Trail planners anticipate that the $665,000 grant dollars in hand will be sufficient to largely complete the corridor acquisition and stabilization phase.

Fundraising for the Herndon to Coon Rapids trail is being done free-of-charge by the non-profit Creating Great Places. CGP board president Curt Thornberry, of Panora, says, “We are thrilled to get a second grant for this project. The extension of the existing Raccoon River Valley Trail 17 miles west to Whiterock Conservancy should help pull additional trail users through Panora and Yale, and bring new users to Bagley and Bayard. The corridor has the potential to bring additional clients to restaurants, bars and convenience stores in all of these communities.”

The current public sponsor for this trail corridor project is the City of Coon Rapids. The city agreed to step forward as public sponsor in May of 2011, after the Guthrie Supervisors voted in March 2011 to cancel the initial $365,000 Transportation Enhancement grant awarded to the project. At that time, Supervisors Carney, Caraher and Dickson opposed the trail project due to concerns over future trail maintenance responsibilities.

Creating Great Places has established a dedicated “Trail Maintenance Fund” to help ally concerns from public sponsors about eventual future trail maintenance costs. According to Garst, nearly
$40,000 has already been raised towards an initial $60,000 goal. She urges all trail backers to show their support by sending tax-deductible donations to: CGP, 401 Fifth Avenue South, Coon Rapids, IA 50058, with the words “Trail Maintenance Fund” on the memo line. These funds will be invested to grow over time until they are eventually needed to help maintain the future trail.

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