North side of Perry could house connector trail

Stephanie Ivankovich
North side of Perry could house connector trail

Woodward- Another effort was made to try and sway the Dallas County Conservation Board to make the north side of Perry the number one option for the Raccoon River Valley and High Trestle Trail connector.

The Mayor of Perry, city administrator of Perry and Perry and Woodward residents attended the Dallas County Conservation Board’s public hearing regarding trail connector’s preferred route on Tuesday night at Woodward city hall.

Rich Voellker, chief engineer with Snyder & Associates, Inc. - the company in charge of the plan for the trail - started the presentation with saying that trail funding drives the entire project.

“As we are able to acquire funds to purchase right of ways or perform construction of the trail it’s very important that the trail project is competitive for those grants,” the chief engineer said. “One of those things that was tending to hold the project back was the flexibility we were leaving in the project for available routes.” As everybody might be aware, as the land acquisition goes, for recreational trails in rural areas there is no eminent domain for acquisition of right of way, Voellker said.

“In essence you have to somewhat follow a path for people willing to sell right of way for a combination of trail or you have to fit it within existing public rights of way,” he said.

Looking at a series of available routes he shared three options between Perry, Bouton and Woodward. These options are based on feasibility and how much public right of way is available, Alignment A (the red route) - located on the north side of Perry - is the closest approximation of the railroad grade between the cities that is still remaining. The High Trestle Trail in Woodward and portions of the Raccoon River Valley Trail are also on former railroad grade, he said. “It makes the perfect trail that everybody is use to,” Voellker said. “Tree lines, prairies, everything along the route. That’s usually the most desirable route for it. But, in this case, everything was abandoned long ago and reverted to private property owners to either side of the railroad grade.”

To some extent that right of way is not available unless property owners are willing to sell it to the conservation board for fair market value. “One of the things we looked at in recent meetings were some trouble areas where there really isn’t any railroad grade left. It’s either been obliterated through or the right of way for the trails is a little tough to come by.”

A map was developed in November in response to comments received from the grant funding exchange mainly from the Iowa Department of Transportation, he said.

So far several funds have been applied for and obtained for right of way acquisition, design, concept and production of the project.

The DOT’s grant selection committee was concerned about the variety of trail routes, he said. “What are we really funding here?” Voellker said in reference to the grant selection committee. “It really led us to this map.”

He showed a map of the routes. Alignment C is a route from Bouton to Perry that goes along Highway 141, O Avenue and county roads going into Perry. Alignment B is down 130th.

“In discussions of having to find a preferred route, which one we are really aiming for, we are really settling in for recommendations to follow Alignment A,” the chief engineer said. “There are portions of Alignment A that are attractive.”

As far as the overall trail route, specifically it has a great separation of Highway 169 to trail users, he said.

He showed pictures what the trail could look like along Alignment A. “Ultimately our resolution is to designate Alignment A as the preferred alignment of the High Trestle Trail Raccoon River Valley Trail connection,” Voellker said. “And to continue to pursue grant funds for land acquisitions for construction.”

Total, four grant funds have been acquired for the connector project. Seth Thomas, a resident on the right of way along R Avenue, said nobody has talked to him about that particular segment of the proposed connector.

“Without the funding in place we haven’t had the ability to have conversations with everybody. It’s just whoever Mike (Wallace, Dallas County Conservation Board executive director) track down in passing just to kind of assess the thought if we had the funding,” Voellker said. “A lot of conversations probably still need to take place. A lot of new conversations need to happen now that there is funding in place.”

The Mayor of Perry, Jay Pattee, added that there are a lot of positives in having Alignment A as the preferred route.

“It looks like it ties in really well with the infrastructure Perry has already put in place,” Pattee said. Thomas said he is all for using the old railroad route as a public right of way, but he said he has a few concerns.

“If it does go how will it affect my house? It’s pretty close to the road. I don’t want to end up with a bike trail 10 feet from my front door,” the R Avenue resident said. On purpose, the map was shown zoomed out, Voellker said.

“We haven’t gotten into that level of detail,” he said. “That’s what we are proposing now as to say, ‘let’s start really looking hard at this red route and start putting detail in.’ It looks like this is starting to get more set.”

For the record, Thomas said he is a supporter of the connector.

“I think it’s a great thing,” Thomas said. “I just want to try and make it a great thing for the long term for everyone involved. This is something that will be around, hopefully, after we are all gone.”

Richard Hartwig, Woodward council member, said Alignment A would be a wonderful investment from Perry to Woodward. The Dallas County Conservation Board did not approve Alignment A as the preferred route at this meeting. They are slated to set the connector’s preferred route this spring.