Rail to trail project gets huge boost locally

Approximately 25 Marshalltown area residents turned out early Friday afternoon to greet an 11-member selection committee from the Iowa Parks Foundation at the Grimes Farm Nature Center.

Their mission: Convince committee members that the 34-mile Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock rail to trail project, known as the Iowa River Railroad Trail, has significant Marshalltown area support, and deserves to be awarded a grant between $1 and $2-million.

Joining the Marshalltown contingent was Curt Lambertsen of Hardin County, a member of the Iowa River Greenbelt Trust, who has been spear-heading a Hardin-Marshall County initiative to gain approval from IPF.

The project is one of five in the state under consideration.

The trail starts near the Marshalltown Aquatic Center and goes northwest through town, crossing Summit Street and then heading north. Advocates said the trail would be ideal for bicycling, bird watching, cross country skiing, walking and other recreational pursuits.

A substantial portion of the trail was once originally part of the Iowa Center Railroad line which provided service between Marshalltown and Eldora, and later, was purchased by the Iowa River Railroad.

The line had not been used for the last three years.

IPF members had previously visited the four competitors before devoting Friday to the Iowa River Railroad Trail application.

Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshalltown Conservation Board, fielded numerous questions from the IPF members concerning recreational opportunities in the county.

Karn Gregoire, director of the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation, emphasized the strong sense of partnership and collaboration which exists in the Marshalltown area.

“Of all the areas I’ve lived in, the collaboration between organizations and others is the best I’ve ever seen,” she said.

Members of the Marshalltown group included attorney Joel Greer, city council members, business representatives, Shannon Espencheid, director of the Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Iowa Valley Bicycle Club, and project advocate Val Ruff, among others.

The Grimes Farm stop was made after visiting the Calkins Nature Area west of Iowa Falls and Steamboat Rock, where the town organized a rally to show support.

After the Grimes Farm event, committee members traveled to visit the Green Castle Recreation Area, then returned to the Calkins Nature Area.

Terry Briggs, a local retired physician and active member of the bicycle club, and Chuck Offenburger, journalist, will present to Rotarians a program about the trail on at noon, Aug. 19, at Marshalltown’s Elmwood Country Club.