CEDAR RAPIDS — Plans by the Linn County supervisors to add missing trail sections and pave some existing ones took a hit when Gov. Terry Branstad late last week vetoed $9 million in outdoor funding from recently passed legislation.
Supervisors Lu Barron and Brent Oleson on Monday said they were disappointed — “super disappointed,” Oleson said — that Branstad reduced funding for the state’s Resource Enhancement and Protection or REAP program from $25 million approved by both the Democratic-controlled Iowa Senate and the Republican-controlled House to $16 million.
Barron and Oleson said Linn County had hoped to seek a piece of the additional REAP funding to help extend the county trail system from Ely to Johnson County and to pave other sections of the main trail through the county between Johnson and Black Hawk counties.
Oleson said many groups, including the Linn supervisors, worked hard to get the $25 million for REAP to celebrate the program’s 25th anniversary, which came on Saturday, he said.
“There’s obviously no vision for outdoor Iowa,” Oleson said of Branstad’s cut to REAP.
Oleson said Branstad’s son, Marcus, sits on the Iowa Natural Resources Commission, which was among the entities that called for $25 million in funding for REAP to mark its 25th anniversary.
Oleson, a Republican who has supported Branstad’s re-election, said he appreciates the governor’s commitment to the state’s financial stability, but he called the governor’s cut to of the legislative funding for REAP “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
“It’s just as important as a fertilizer plant (now under construction) in Lee County or these other kind of tax giveaways to corporations to create jobs,” Oleson said. Funding for quality of life programs like REAP play their own key role in economic development, he said.
Barron said she hoped the Linn County Conservation Department would look to see what other funds might be available to complete the trail link from Ely south of Johnson County.
Early this year, Oleson said trail proponents in Linn, Johnson and Black Hawk County asked the Iowa Legislature for $8 million to connect trails in Johnson, Linn and Black Hawk counties. At one point, the Iowa Senate approved $3 million of the funding, but the Iowa House removed it, he said.
In the end, $5 million has been made available for trails statewide and $1 million specifically for trails in Central Iowa, Oleson said.
He said Linn County will seek some of the $5 million, but he said the competition is stiff.
Oleson said the trail system in Central Iowa is far more developed than trails in Linn County and Eastern Iowa, and the hope had been to get more state help to support trails on this side of the state, he said.
“It feels we were just getting going on those kind of projects, and this would have been a help,” he said of the additional REAP funding. “But it is what it is.”