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Prairie City News

Four years in, Red Rock Prairie Trail ready to build

Monroe trailhead pavilion takes next step

MONROE — Steady fundraising and planning for the Red Rock Prairie Trail over the last four years has given the Jasper County towns along the 8.3-mile route visions of visitors and business interest.

Now, with the construction of the trail expected to begin later his year, the Monroe City Council is scheduled to take its next big step Monday — picking a trailhead design.

The city council voted in January to commit $5,000 to commission architects to create schismatics for a trailhead pavilion in the town’s Red Rock Park. Volunteers with Monroe’s Hometown Pride Committee are slated to present their final design for city approval at the council’s Monday meeting. The leading contender is a model recreating the look of a historic now-gone, train depot in Monroe.

A rough outline of the pavilion, first presented by Monroe Hometown Pride in December, shows two public single use bathrooms, an open shelter area and an enclosed space with an exterior look nearly identical to the train depot demolished decades ago near the Monroe post office.

A parking lot is also in the works at the nearby water tower. It would be maintained by the city, but serve as a public trailhead with bathrooms and a shelter for visiting trail users as well as Monroe citizens.

Prairie City also has preliminary designs for a trailhead in downtown Garden Square Park, but the Buffalo statue, canopy and public restrooms at the city’s Entryway Park near Highway 163 will serve as the temporary trailhead until more funds can be secured.

The Red Rock Prairie Trail will connect Monroe and Prairie City and eventually extend to Lake Red Rock in Marion County and through Mitchellville and into Altoona in Polk County, linking to the Gay Lee Wilson Trail on the Central Iowa Trail Network.

According to Jasper County Hometown Pride Community Coach Jeff Davidson, construction and paving of the trail between Monroe and Prairie City will begin in the summer or early fall of this year.

Both Monroe and Prairie City leaders pledged $20,000 each earlier this year to acquire the final funding needed to pave the trail. The money is part of a 20 percent local match for the federal Transportation Alternative Program Grant.

Davidson told Prairie City and Monroe leaders in January the grant would bring an additional $300,000 to the Red Rock Prairie Trail project, $240,000 from the federal government and $60,000 from local parties in Jasper County.

Jasper County Conservation has also pledged the final $20,000. Combined with the $891,000 in cash already available from federal and state grants, this would reach Hometown Pride and Jasper County Conservation’s $1.2 million goal for the Red Rock Prairie Trail development.

The $20,000 promised is contingent on the federal government awarding the grant to Hometown Pride and Jasper County Conservation.

The first phase of the project will develop an 8.3-mile link from Monroe to Prairie City. Phase II will build the portions leading Lake Red Rock to the southeast and Mitchellville, Altoona and the Gay Lea Wilson Trail in Altoona to the west.

The project has been in development since 2014, when Jasper County Conservation and local leaders enlisted the help of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to acquire an 11-mile abandoned rail bed running from Monroe to Highway F62 West, southeast of Prairie City to Highway S27 near Mitchellville. The former Iowa Interstate Rail bed will be used as the base for the majority of the trail.

Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall@newtondailynews.com

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