• Mon November 09 2009
  • Posted Nov 9, 2009
West Des Moines, IA, November 6, 2009 City of West Des Moines pledges $60,000 toward the development, even though that city is not on the actual RRVT. Officials there recognize that thousands of visitors will come their way from the networked trail system. Huge expansion and resurfacing projects on the Raccoon River Valley Trail have received major infusions of state and federal funding in the past year. But one of the clearest signals that this trail in west central Iowa is now regarded as an important asset for the whole region came late last month in the form of a $60,000 pledge from the City of West Des Moines for the trail’s development. That’s despite the fact that the RRVT doesn’t actually go into that city. However, West Des Moines officials are fully aware that the RRVT connects to the Clive Greenbelt Trail, which in turn connects to the trail systems of both West Des Moines and Des Moines. And that means thousands of trail users coming in and out of the cities in years to come. Some of them will be West Des Moines citizens, enjoying the connectivity of their own city’s trail system. But many more people on the trails there will be visitors from all over the Midwest and beyond, experiencing the Raccoon River Valley Trail, which is “becoming one of America’s best recreational trails,” according to its frequent boast. “We feel there will be some definite economic benefits that will come to West Des Moines as a result of this trail system,” said Jody Smith, the city’s director of administrative services. “As trail users come into the metro area, a lot of them will more than likely be staying in West Des Moines motels, eating in West Des Moines restaurants and doing some shopping in West Des Moines stores and malls.” But that’s not the whole reason why the West Des Moines city council voted on October 19 to make the $60,000 commitment to the trail. Smith pointed out that the city limits of West Des Moines, which is home to about 55,000 people, have for years extended west from Polk County into Dallas County, and more recently have extended south into Warren County, too. “As a result, we have partnered with Dallas County on a number of things over the years, and we enjoy that relationship we have with them,” he said. “Helping with this trail project was a way we could help out Dallas County, and make our partnership even stronger.” The pledge is actually $20,000 per year over the next three fiscal years, starting with 2011. It is being made to Dallas County, representing the Dallas County Conservation Board, which is the lead agency on the expansion project of the Raccoon River Valley Trail. The 20-year-old RRVT currently runs 56 miles from Jefferson in Greene County, south and east through eight other towns in Greene, Guthrie and Dallas Counties – Cooper, Herndon, Yale, Panora, Linden, Redfield, Adel and Waukee. It is connected east from Waukee into Clive, West Des Moines and Des Moines. The major expansion is a 33-mile-long “North Loop,” that will go northeast from Waukee through Dallas Center, Minburn, Perry and then west through Dawson and Jamaica to Herndon. Thus, the RRVT will soon total 89 miles, and will be one of the longest hard-surfaced trails in the nation. And its interior “loop” of 72 miles will be the longest on any trail in the U.S. That $6.6 million expansion project has been the focus of an intense, three-year fundraising campaign led by Dallas County Conservation Director Mike Wallace and other RRVT advocates. The last major chunks of that funding came in June with a $1.6 million grant from the Community Attraction & Tourism fund of the Vision Iowa Program; then in early October with $367,000 from the state’s Resource Enhancement And Protection (“REAP”) program, and then a week later with $484,995 from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s State Recreational Trails Program. In addition, more than $75,000 in private donations have come from members of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association, other individual donors and organizations. Earlier in the year, a separate RRVT project was selected to receive $945,000 from the federal government’s economic stimulus program. That grant, announced in March, will cover the cost of a badly-needed resurfacing project on five miles of the original trail from Panora to Yale. That work is to be completed next spring. So, while the projected costs of the RRVT expansion and resurfacing have been met by the earlier grants, the $60,000 West Des Moines pledge is no less crucial, according to Wallace, the Dallas County Conservation director. “There will be many unforeseen things come up in the next three years while we’re building this trail that will increase the costs for this entire project,” Wallace said. “This new pledge from West Des Moines will secure a consistent development strategy and help ensure that the project will not get off-track in its development phases because of tight funds or increased costs.” The pledge came after a series of meetings between trail advocates and city officials in three western suburbs that began in late May. Among the trail advocates involved in those meetings have been Wallace, Mark Hanson of the Dallas County Board of Supervisors, Perry Mayor Viivi Shirley, Perry City Administrator Butch Niebuhr, and two other members of the board of directors of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association, Jim Miller of West Des Moines and Chuck Offenburger of Cooper. The cities of Clive and Urbandale have also been involved in the discussions about ways to partner in the RRVT development, but it was West Des Moines that has now made the first pledge. To comment on RRVT News stories, and share your ideas for stories, please write to us at

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