Adel Mayor Jim Peters carried the city’s new Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT) banner up to a stage Saturday as the crowd of approximately 300 cyclists and trail supporters applauded. The parade and placement of banners kicked off the Grand Opening in Perry of the RRVT’s North Loop.
He was followed by representatives, mostly mayors, of each of the 14 communities along the trail, who walked the banners to the stage and placed them in holders.
In a later interview, Peters said he expects trail traffic to increase in Adel, a portion of the trail that was among the first sections created. "On the Sunday after the ceremony, I was driving to Des Moines, and saw that the Waukee trailhead was packed with cars that had bike racks," he said. Adel has always seen an impact with the bike trail – at the local ice cream shop, Subway, gas stations, convenience stores, local restaurants and bars, he said.
"One thing that impressed me when I was in Perry for the ceremony was the trail head there. Perry has created a nice place for trail users to stop," Peters said. "That is something Adel needs to work on and establish. I would like to see Adel establish a real nice inviting area for trail users to enjoy."
Although he said he did not have a specific site in mind, he said it is something the city will most likely explore.
The RRVT trail, which cost approximately $8.5 million from start to finish, has been a series of completions stretching from 1989 through late May when the loop trail now travels through Jamaica, Dawson, Perry, Minburn, Dallas Center, Waukee, Adel, Redfield Linden, Panora, Yale and Herndon, and extends up through Cooper and Jefferson. The trail also connects to the Des Moines metro trail system, which can be traversed into downtown Des Moines. Completion of the trail over all those years has been a matter of "… watching the dots and dashes on the trail maps become solid lines," said Kevin Cooney, the keynote speaker for the Grand opening and a news anchor at KCCI TV 8. An avid bicyclist, Cooney also has been supportive of the RRVT and its progress. Together, the trail is about 89 miles long. While there are other loop trails in the United States, completion of the final section this year creates the longest paved loop in the nation.
That’s huge in terms of drawing cyclists to the trail and through the trail communities, which in turn see increased business, said Chuck Offenburger who served as Master of Ceremonies at the Grand Opening. Offenburger is an active member of the RRVT Association, as well as an author, columnist and avid cyclist.
Cyclist Norton Hatlie of West Des Moines rode 100 miles, including the new loop to get the Saturday’s event.
"We rode 75 miles around to Perry from West Des Moines and will ride 25 miles back to Des Moines after the events," he said.
Hatlie said he rides with a group of friends to Redfield where they have breakfast. The group is now discovering Perry and where they can go when they ride to Perry.
Daniel Willrich, RRVT Association president and a Dallas Center City Council member, said in an interview Saturday that the trail completion will be huge for Dallas Center. "The downtown restaurant, The Longest Yard, is already seeing an increase in business from people coming in off the trail," he said.
The restaurant owners are looking at adding some items to the menu specific to trail users. Willrich said they are also keeping some bike items, such as replacement tire tubes, handy. Dallas Center is working on a trail head across from the library, he said. He also said that a new focus now that the trail loop is completed will be on bringing officials and residents from all the 14 communities together to improve the trail experience as a whole.
A group called Common Thread was created to do just that, and includes representatives from each of the trail communities. Coming up with ways to get trail users into each community is something the group will work on, Willrich said.
He used Dallas Center as an example.
"We are building a new pool and the question is how we engage trail users with the new pool," he said.