116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn and Black Hawk counties will receive $3.5 million of federal American Rescue Plan funds allocated by the state to finish paving the last 16 miles of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail that runs between Evansdale and Hiawatha.
Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office announced the Destination Iowa grant funding Thursday, with the trail project being one of three to receive funds in this round of allocations. Applications for projects in Cedar Rapids and Marion are still awaiting word on their fate.
Once completed, the Cedar Valley Nature Trail will have a paved 52 miles. The trail also links other well-known trails in Eastern Iowa, including the CeMar, Grant Wood and Highway 100 trails in the Cedar Rapids and Marion areas. Those using the trail can also make their way down through Johnson County.
“We’re very excited,” Linn County Conservation Director Dennis Goematt said. “We’ve been trying to get the trail paved for the entire length for many years and we’ve been whittling away at it.”
The funding will allow the two county conservation departments to jointly finish paving the last miles of the historic trail, which still is surfaced only with crushed limestone and dirt through Black Hawk, Buchanan and Benton counties. The project also will include bridge replacements, box culverts and watershed controls.
The converted rail-trail is part of the nationally recognized American Discovery Trail and Great American Rail-Trail. The trail flows through various small communities like Robins, Lafayette, Center Point, Urbana, Brandon, La Porte City and Gilbertville.
Fully paving and completing the Cedar Valley Nature Trail has been a goal since the project began in the mid-1980s.
“I think it's really going to increase tourism,” Goematt said. “I think people will come from out of state even to use this trail. People love the hard surface trails. To be able to go from one community to another is really beneficial for the whole area.”
Business owners Mike and Vicky Goble, who own Jams Coffee Bar in Urbana, have benefited from their business being close to the trail since opening last year. In fact, the couple got permission to add a paved pathway connecting their business to the trail to provide easy access for bikers. The bar offers coffee, beer, wine, flatbreads, pizzas and snacks.
“The bike trail was one big reason we selected this spot,” Mike Goble said. “This spring and summer, a significant amount of our business is bike traffic, especially on the weekends. They’re a huge part of our customer base.”
The Gobles installed bike racks to hold up to 70 bikes near their outdoor patio.
“We’ve been very supportive to be able to expand this trail,” Goble added. “I’m glad they got the grant to continue with the mission to pave through these other towns, too.”
So far, Linn County’s Water and Land Legacy bond issue has funded some of the paving done so far. In November 2016, residents passed the bond with 74 percent approval to improve water quality, build parks and trails and preserve natural areas.
Conservation Deputy Director Daniel Gibbins said passing the bond helped provide funding leverage to apply for the federal money.
“With our residents voting for that bond, it was really important to be able to leverage that funding,” Gibbins said. “These small towns in rural areas, a major trail like this can be an economic lifeline. This can be a growth opportunity for communities. The trail extends through five counties, and that’s a lot of rural Iowa that’s going to have huge benefit.”
Last year, hard surfacing from Center Point to Urbana was completed on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail — a 6-mile stretch accomplished thanks to two Iowa Department of Transportation grants.
Funding in this round of the Destination Iowa program also went to the city of Maquoketa and Jackson County Conservation, which were awarded $750,000 for improvements to the Prairie Creek Recreation Area, including the installation of a whitewater paddling course on the Maquoketa River, a championship-caliber disc golf course and ADA-accessible hiking trails.
Also, the city of Colfax was awarded $400,000 for improvements to Quarry Springs Park, located off Interstate 80. Funding for the “Relax in Colfax” project will assist with the creation of a 30-site RV campground, a shower house and bathrooms and an ADA-accessible dock.
Locally, the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion have both applied for federal funds through the Destination Iowa allocation program.
In May, Cedar Rapids applied for $27 million -- later pared back to $8.4 million -- through the Destination Iowa program to help pay for the $119 million “Greenway Recreation and Revitalization” project along the Cedar River near Czech Village and NewBo.
In June, Marion applied for over $3.5 million in funds for the Uptown Central Plaza project, as well as the final phase of the long-awaited CeMar Trail. The total cost of the two projects is just over $9 million.
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