116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Linn County Conservation aims to connect Grant Wood Trail to Springville
Recent work includes paving a portion of the trail near Waldo’s Rock Park in Marion
Linn County Conservation is preparing for the next phase of a project whose ultimate goal is connecting the Grant Wood Trail from Marion to Springville.
Conservation held a public-input meeting at the Springville American Legion Post 331 on Tuesday to hear residents’ views and answer questions about the project.
The Grant Wood Trail is located off of Highway 13 near Marion’s Waldo’s Rock Park. A joint underpass project between the City of Marion and Linn County connects the Grant Wood Trail to the city’s trail, which ultimately leads through Uptown Marion and connects to other trails throughout Cedar Rapids.
The department has also paved a 2.8-mile stretch from Waldo’s Rock Park east to Oxley Road this fall.
“Ideally, these trails connect communities when they are hard surfaced,” Conservation Director Dennis Goemaat said. “I used to believe gravel surface was the way to go, but every time we've hard surfaced, the use goes up exponentially. Not only from the fact there's more people that will use it, but your season gets extended as well. You don't have that slushy time in the spring. You can lose a month of use time just because of the mud, slush on the trail. I've come to particularly like these connected trails to be hard surfaced.”
“When you're connecting communities, it's not just a recreational function. It's also an alternative transportation function too,” Deputy Director Daniel Gibbins said. “Hard surface is the only true trail that meets accessible guidelines for ADA all of the time.”
Additional studies are being done to plan a trail expansion from Creekside Road to Paralta. The city of Springville has expressed interest in having the trail expand and connect to the city as well. If connected, the length from Waldo’s Rock to Springville would be around eight miles.
“We’re studying the route. The route from Creekside to Paralta is obvious but it’s less obvious to get to Springville,” Goemaat said. “We want to do this in sync with the DOT while they improve the intersection at 151 because they will put trail amenities in their project if they know where the trail is headed. But that means we need to get the DOT that information late this year or early next year. It’s five years away for them doing the work, but that’s their planning process.”
Residents from multiple Linn County cities showed up to share their input on the project. Many of them said they don’t like the idea of paving the two-mile portion of trail from Creekside to the Paralta area, where there is currently a natural grassy trail.
Judy Lucas of Cedar Rapids who uses the trail around five times a week said conservation should leave that portion of trail how it is, but still pave the rest to connect to Springville.
“It’s just perfect to walk on. I like it the way it is. Paving it will ruin the tranquillity and peace,” Lucas said.
Mary and Karl Clapp of Marion agreed with Lucas, saying they don’t mind paving the rest and connecting the trail to Springville, but they would prefer the grassy miles to be mostly left alone.
“I think it can be improved but it would be such a loss of a natural resource to pave through it,” Mary Clapp said.
Alejandro Sanchez of North Liberty is the assistant coach of the cross-country and track teams at Cornell College. He too said he would like the grassy area to remain so his team can continue to practice on it.
“One-hundred percent of the race and training is really on the grass. When we look for places to train, we need solid footing and this two miles is long enough and the footing is great,” Sanchez said. “We use it all the time and the trail stays solid year-round in all weather. We want it to stay that way.”
Goemaat added that connecting the trail to Springville in the next five years is a “great target.” More than likely, a large portion of the trail from Oxley to the eventual Springville connection will be gravel initially with the intent of it later being paved in phases.
Springville residents who showed up to the meeting said they are looking forward to the trail connecting to their city.
“I’m for the trail and I like the access for biking,” Sherrie Northway of Springville said. “But I do have horses so I’d still like some grass too.”
“The Oxley to Creekside section will be done with asphalt in a year,” Gibbins said. “The next section from Creekside to Parlata will likely follow our current pattern of having gravel. We also have some culvert work and a couple little bridges to do and then later, it would all be hard surfaced. It’s about leveraging the bonds and capital dollars as we go.”
Goemaat said there is no current overall estimated cost for the entirety of the multiyear projects. More details will come as the trail study moves further along.
Before it was a trail, the Grant Wood Corridor began as a railway in the 1870s between Marion and Savanna, Ill. The railroad carried freight and passengers across the Midwest until 1980. Later, the Linn County Trails Association acquired the trail in 1998 and gifted it to conservation in 2005.
“People don’t want to change the character of the sections of trails and neither do we,” Goemaat said. “The great thing is this was a dual-track line, so trains could go both directions and pass each other. That means we have a 25-foot top to work with and we need 12 to 14 feet for a paved trail with two feet for shoulders, which means that leaves 10 to 12 feet of grass.”
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