Where the Raccoon River Valley Trail runs through Waukee now, there used to be tracks of historical railroad lines. Bikers and walkers may experience something like those tracks on their paths once again.
A project in the making since 1989, the RRVT is one of the longest continuous surfaced off-road trail systems in the U.S. The 89-mile trail passes through 14 towns and three counties and includes a 72-mile interior loop.
"The new 72-mile loop is the longest paved loop tail in the country, and it will be a huge draw for cyclists," said Jim Miller, Trailhead Public Art Committee Chair.
Waukee is not only one of the towns through which the trail passes; it’s also one of the only gateways to both the western and northern roots of the trail’s 89-mile corridor. At the point of this gateway – the intersection of Highway 6 and 10th Street – advocates of the Waukee Public Art Initiative want to move forward with a plan to build a public art project. The design of the trailhead installation, entitled, "Railroad Pergola – in the shadow of the rails," play on the railroad history of Waukee and will include colorful LED night lighting, possibly powered by on-site solar panels. The plan is to build a pergola of sorts that would create the feeling of passing under an elevated railroad track. Designed by David Dahlquist, the mind behind the High Trestle Trail project in Boone County, the installation would feature steel rails elevated above the trail by dozens of large striped columns.
"What I feel is most impactful with this project is to give the Raccoon River Valley Trail a focal point that says ‘this is the entry point,’" said Miller.
"The public artwork will serve as a starting point that out of town visitors can easily find," Miller added. "It will also be fun to see what the draw becomes in the evenings when the lights are casting a welcoming glow in a rainbow of colors. The restaurants and bars need to be prepared for influx!"
While the project does sound promising, many have raised questions about the cost. The estimated cost of the venture comes in at right around $1 million. However, that money would all be brought in through public and private donations, grant applications, and direct funding by the city or county. Residents would not be taxed for this project. The contract with RDG includes development of fund raising strategies and support with grant applications.
A few concerns have also been raised about spending such money on art.
"Anytime you’re dealing with art, it’s impossible to get full approval from the public," said Miller. "If anyone has had a real issue with the project, they’ve had plenty of time to share their concerns with the council since the proposal."
Despite any grumblings, the committee plans to move forward and is very excited for the completion of this monumental project sometime in 2015.