SOLON — There are a lot more cyclists cruising around Solon this summer with the paving of 6 miles of trail between Solon and Ely.
Mitch Corcoran, 55, and Ben Walker, 55, high school buddies from Mount Vernon, rode 14 miles from Cedar Rapids to the Big Grove Brewpub in Solon on Thursday for a sour and a Moscow mule. After cooling off with drinks on the patio, they hopped back on their bikes for the ride north.
“It’s an easy ride and beautiful countryside,” said Corcoran, who already has ridden the newly-paved path several times.
The Johnson County Conservation Board paved the 6-mile stretch of the Hoover Trail in May, said Brad Freidhof, conservation program manager. Crews will continue to do soil work and plant a permanent prairie mix or turf grass in the fall, when the weather is cooler, he said.
The project cost was $6 million, including $2.8 million in federal and state grants, he said.
The only part of the trail that isn’t done is an underpass planned just north of 140th Street NE, which should be completed in 2021 or 2022, Freidhof said. Until that’s done, cyclists must ride across 20 feet of gravel to cross Ely Road NE to another segment of paved trail.
“It wasn’t really an issue,” said Brian Richman, 54, of Iowa City, who rode the trail for the first time Thursday. “It was lovely, especially when you get a little north of here out in the tall grass prairie.”
Eastern Iowa cyclists have been waiting for completion of this stretch of trail, regarded as the missing link in a network eventually stretching from Iowa City to Cedar Falls.
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The Hoover Trail becomes the Cedar Valley Nature Trail at the Linn County line and cyclists riding all the way from Solon to Cedar Rapids can find many places to stop for a beer, a sandwich or a creamy cone.
“We get the majority of the bikers in here between 11 and 1,” said Kenzie Sparkman, an assistant to the managers at Dan and Debbie’s Creamery in Ely, which sells handmade ice cream, cheese and butter.
Dan and Debbie’s is on the portion of the trail that’s been complete for years, but Sparkman said they’ve seen an increase in bike business since the new segment opened from Solon. “The bike trail has really helped us and other small businesses get through his tough time.”
Bicycle riding is booming as a way to get exercise during the COVID-19 pandemic while keeping the risk of exposure low. Freidhof, who was out working along the trail this summer, has seen families, single riders and groups pedaling the new path.
“With the cancellation of RAGBRAI and the Iowa’s RIDE this year, no county fairs, parades, or community events I think people are enjoying staycations and using local trails, parks, water trails and other outdoor recreation to fill the vacation and sports voids in their lives,” he said.
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