Bike trail supporters form nonprofit

Cycling enthusiasts have banded together, assembling the nonprofit the city recommended to maintain a proposed bike trail to offset city maintenance costs.

Terry Briggs, with the Iowa Valley Bicycle Club, spoke to the Marshalltown City Council at its Monday night meeting. The council approved assuming ownership of 12 miles of old railroad corridor at its June 24 meeting. The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation wanted to acquire the land to connect to another segment of bike trail that reaches to Steamboat Rock but needed a public entity to sponsor the purchase.

Although the council voted to acquire the land to be used for the trail, it placed a stipulation on ownership: the city would not be responsible for the corridor’s maintenance. The city wanted to see a nonprofit mobilize to cover those maintenance costs.

Briggs said a board of directors, along with bylaws, has been established to form the group, which is called Trail Resource and Land Stewards (TRAILS) Inc.

“We are very pleased to have a wide range of ages, professions and interests,” Briggs said. “These are not all bikers, runners or inline skaters. These are people who are vested in Marshalltown and Marshall County.”

Financial support has been good so far as well, Briggs said. In addition to his group’s yearly $6,000 contribution, he said the 100 Women Who Care group has agreed to donate between $16,000 and $17,000 to the project, ensuring at least four years’ worth of maintenance.

Council member and attorney Joel Greer, who is also on the newly-formed TRAILS Inc. board, said the nonprofit is a formal corporation as of July 3.

Mayor Tommy Thompson said the formation of the nonprofit and its pledge to maintain the proposed trail addresses the city’s concerns.

However, Leon Lamer, at-large council member, said two of the board members, Martin Wymore and Jeffery Mathis, could prove problematic. Mathis is the chair of the Marshall County Conservation Board, which would be competing with the city for grant money, and Wymore would be allocating federal grant money.

“We shouldn’t build this thing with two people on the board who will have a conflict,” Lamer said.

Support for the project has been prevalent, and Briggs said he didn’t anticipate having a problem filling those peoples’ spots should they need to step down because of conflicts. The board will also have ex officio members from Parks and Recreation and the Marshall County Conservation Board. Although council member Greer sits on the board, Briggs said the board would like specify that a member of the council should be an ex officio member should Greer cease to be on the board.

Lamer also noted the lack of provisions ensuring money given to the nonprofit goes to fund the trails maintenance.

Curt Ward, city attorney, said what transpires between those donating money to TRAILS Inc. and the nonprofit is none of the city’s concern. The city shouldn’t be in the position of managing and directing management if it is going to relinquish control of the trail.

“There is no tie to the money to us, and I think that is wrong,” Lamer said.

Briggs said the group intends to use all donated money to help maintain the trail.

TRAILS Inc. will hold its first board of directors meeting next week. Once grant money goes through and the deal is complete, the city will own the property to be used for the bike trail for 20 years; the bike trail will likely see completion in approximately 10 years.

Council member Bethany Wirin was absent from the discussion.