Advocacy group names Decorah 'River City of the Year'

Trout Run Trail the hallmark, group says

A cyclist crosses a bridge along the Trout Run Bike/Hike Trail in Decorah. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
A cyclist crosses a bridge along the Trout Run Bike/Hike Trail in Decorah. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Decorah, on the clean and scenic Upper Iowa River, has been recognized as River Town of the Year by Iowa Rivers Revival.

“The people of Decorah are very aware of their inheritance and committed to protecting it and passing it on to future generations,” said Bob Brammer, a member of the board of the statewide river advocacy group.

The award – to be presented at 11 a.m. Friday in the Peace Dining Room on the campus of Luther College -- celebrates communities that are reclaiming riverfronts for recreation, economic development, ecological practices and good water quality.

Mayor Don Arendt said the hallmark of community efforts to showcase the river is the $8 million Trout Run Trail completed in 2012. For three of its 11 miles, the trail runs along the Upper Iowa River and provides scenic river views from other distant vantages.

The river and the world famous Decorah eagles, whose lives are viewed by millions on the Raptor Resource Project’s webcam, are among the city’s signature elements, Arendt said.

Planting of native grasses on public property along the river has helped beautify and protect the Upper Iowa, he said.

Water quality testing in the Upper Iowa has documented a declining trend line for both nitrates and phosphorus, according to Lora Friest, executive director of the Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development.

That improving water quality, as also measured by increasing clarity, is the result of landowners voluntarily implementing conservation practices in the watershed, said Friest,a former Upper Iowa watershed coordinator.

Friest said the Upper Iowa, fed by springs and waterfalls, helps define a city that many Decorah residents regard as a natural paradise.

City Administrator Chad Bird said river stakeholders are planning to make the river more accessible by improving canoe landings and installing more signage.

“The river is a beautiful community asset for residents and a great attraction for visitors,” said Decorah native and Upper Iowa lover Nikki Brevig, executive director of the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce.

Decorah residents have a highly developed culture of respect for the river and property along it, Brammer said. “They are a real model for what we hope will happen for other rivers around the state,” he said.Past Eastern Iowa award recipients include Elkader, Dubuque, Cedar Falls, Central City and Charles City.

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