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  • Sat August 19 2006
  • Posted Aug 19, 2006
Sioux City is ready to partner on the bridge By Michele Linck Journal staff writer Hikers, bicyclists and other users of area recreation trails will know soon whether they'll be enjoying a trail system connected in three states instead of just two. Or not. The Dakota Dunes Community Improvement District board expects to make a decision Monday on whether its community will partner with Sioux City to build a proposed, 10-foot-wide bridge over the Big Sioux River. That bridge -- from the Dunes' Two Rivers Golf Club to Sioux City's Riverside Park -- would hook the Dunes' 4.5 miles of newly constructed trails to Sioux City's trail system, which already connects to South Sioux City's. Dunes split Dunes residents are split on whether they want to connect to the other area trails. Dunes CID Manager Jeff Dooley said Thursday he had polled many residents via e-mail and that of 70 respondents, 55 percent are in favor of connecting and 45 percent are opposed. John Leith, a member of the Dunes' Prairie neighborhood said he's one of those in favor. Although not an avid cyclist, he wants to see the bridge built so he can ride his bike to his job at the federal building in Sioux City. "It would be nice to go to work that way once in awhile," he said. He figures the 3-mile trip would take about 20 minutes. Dennis Melstad, a CID board member, said about 70 percent of the households received the e-mail and board members are beginning to get more feedback. He said those in favor of connecting want to ride their bikes on "one long trail," into North Sioux City and to Adams Nature Preserve as well as Sioux City and South Sioux City. Those opposed, he said, cite several reasons: they feel their children are safer on a less accessible trail; they worry after a spate of burglaries in the Dunes this spring that a connected trail will make the community less secure; and, those who use the local trail worry that a connected trail could get so crowded it would not be fun to walk, run or ride on. In addition, Dooley said some residents aren't sure they want to create a second way for people to access their rather secluded development; they like their quiet neighborhoods. The subdivision was purposely designed with only one street leading in and out, he said. While the Dunes trails are public -- funded largely by a South Dakota Department of Transportation grant -- hikers and cyclists from Iowa or Nebraska have to travel on busy public roads to reach them. Few do. "They don't go anywhere," Dooley noted. He praised Sioux City and South Sioux City for their progressive use of trails and called the proposed bridge "an amenity" and "a good opportunity to partner with Sioux City." But, he said, the CID board will take its direction from community concensus. Sioux City would front the money Sioux City has already received grants to pay for most of its half of the $500,000 project, stating on the application the expectation that the Dunes would partner on the other half. "We do not feel bound by that," Dooley said this week. He said the state -- which contributed $525,000 toward the Dunes' new trails -- knew from the beginning that the bridge would be an alternate, and that it has been eliminated from the project for now. He said the CID could use any leftover trail money for the bridge, but could not turn around and apply for another grant so soon after receiving the $525,000. He said he didn't know how much money would be left after the bills are paid. Dooley called the assurance by Bob DeSmidt, president of the Siouxland Trails Foundation, a recreation trail advocate, that the needed $250,000 could be raised privately, "optimistic." Terry Hoffman, Sioux City's parks and recreation manager, said that in a meeting Thursday, the city offered to lend Dakota Dunes its share of the project funds to be paid back over five years rather than delay construction for another three or four years. "There was no commitment on either side," he said. Melstad said, contrary to some people's thinking, the money is an issue. Even if the Dunes accepts Sioux City's offer of a loan, its taxpayers will still have to repay it, he said. And if it proceeds on the promise of private funding and it doesn't happen, the taxpayers are on the hook for the money. 'Dunes benefits most' Hoffman said both states would benefit from connected trails. "But (the Dunes) is probably the major beneficiary" of connecting to Sioux City and South Sioux City trails. "We already have the capability to share those resources." If the CID votes against building the bridge, Hoffman said, Sioux City would likely have to return its $187,000 IDOT grant. The money must be used next year or forfeited. Melstad predicted a good turnout and lively discussion at Monday's 7 p.m. CID board meeting. Dooley said, either way, he is anxious to have the issue settled so the bridge project can become part of current budget planning. Or not.

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