The Missing Link
At Mitchellville city limits, through Prairie City and on toward Monroe, a trail is forming that will bring hundreds of riders, walkers and families into small-town Iowa.
When a rail corridor became available in 2014, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation took the opportunity to begin to piece together what hopes to be the start of a connection to the Gay Lea Wilson Trail and the Des Moines metropolitan area. The trail is part of a larger vision to connect Central Iowa from Saylorville Lake north of Des Moines to Lake Red Rock in Pella.
“It’s been a line on a map for 20 years,” said Andrea Boulton, INHF’s statewide trails coordinator. “It’s exciting to see it finally get a chance to come to fruition.”
The almost 11-mile trail will run through more rural parts of Iowa, crossing paths with the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge while taking bike and other trail traffic through intimate communities. In connecting with the five miles of bike lanes within the refuge, the Prairie City trail will bring more people into the natural area to view bison, elk, grassland birds and oak savanna. From Prairie City, the path will connect with a trail under construction leading into Monroe.
The 100-foot greenway corridor, including the 10-foot path, will also allow the county to do significant prairie restoration in the area.
Jeff Davidson, the Jasper County Hometown Pride community coach, sees the trail bringing economic opportunities to the towns it rolls through. On popular trails like the High Trestle, the Great Western and the Raccoon River Valley Trail, Davidson says businesses along the trail are already reporting more riders and visitors year-round.
“I think we could easily, on a nice summer day, get some restaurants open and get people spending some money in those towns,” Davidson said when asked about the impact of the Prairie City to Mitchellville Trail. “We could easily have a couple hundred riders a day.”
Because of the complexity of trail projects, the path will be tackled in several phases, with the first priority being the link between Prairie City, Monroe and the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.
Want to help make this project a reality? Donate to the Prairie City Trail now.