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New funding for additional trails approved

BY AARON WALKER | OCTOBER 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Bikers and hikers will soon be able to travel on more than 200 miles of trails connecting Iowa City to Cedar Falls.

Last week, the Iowa Transportation Commission approved approximately $5.5 million for funding the State Recreational Trails Program.

The Hoover Trails “Missing Link” project will connect the Hoover Trail in Solon to the Cedar River Trail in Ely. This specific project will receive $454,000.

Funding for the project will come from the Rebuilding Iowa Infrastructure Fund.

Craig Markley, the director of the Iowa Transportation Commission’s office of systems planning, said funding comes from lottery revenue.

“[It] will be kind of a hybrid and have a dual track,” he said. “Parts would be paved 8 feet wide, then an additional parallel trail would be soft track conducive to running, hiking, some cross-country skiing, and maybe some snowmobiling.”

Markley said this was the most funding the commission has ever seen dedicated to the State Recreational Trail Program.

“The money now is mostly for the design and environmental review,” Markley said. “[Which] is going to take into account the impact on adjacent land owners [and] what type of environmental footprint will be in place.”

After the planning period, Markley said, the Johnson County Conservation Board will probably ask for state or federal money for construction. The desired completion date is Nov. 20, 2016, he said.

Brad Freidhof, the Johnson County conservation program manager, said this will connect the roughly 75 miles of trail from Solon to Cedar Falls. Iowa City bikers can reach Solon via Highway 1’s bike lane.

“It will be very beneficial to communities of Solon and Ely,” Freidhof said. “It’s a great opportunity to provide great recreational resource.”

He said the project is entering its first phase, which consists of having engineers survey the land to understand “what’s really feasible.”

“[It’s] a really good opportunity to utilize land that’s been abandoned from [railroads],” Freidhof said. “We’re really excited about it.”

“Solon to Cedar Rapids is treacherous; there’s not a good way to do that,” said Karen Parrott, a Coralville resident who bikes Iowa trails frequently. “You can get about halfway, but one segment is not very safe.”

She said once people get to Cedar Rapids, they can follow the trail all the way to Cedar Falls.

“There are lots of people who would like to ride from Cedar Rapids to the Solon area, then you can catch Highway 1 into Iowa City,” Parrott said. “It’s kind of a valuable piece to connect other trails together.”

University of Iowa junior Ross Edwards said he will definitely use the trail for biking once it’s completed.

“I’ve been wanting to go on longer rides, but none of the trails I’m familiar with are very long,” Edwards said. “Back home in Des Moines, I could just choose from a variety of different trails. I was kind of spoiled that way.”


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