September 24, 2023

County Conservation awarded $240K trail grant

Money will fully fund Red Rock Prairie Trail paving

Jasper County Conservation announced Monday it’s been awarded a $240,000 federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant to pave the Red Rock Prairie Trail from Monroe to Prairie City.

The grant work was made possible by a partnership with Monroe and Prairie City’s Hometown Pride Committees who have been collaborating with County Conservation and the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for nearly four years to bring the trail to southern Jasper County.

The grant will be matched with $20,000 in pledged contributions from Jasper County Conservation, the City of Monroe and the City of Prairie City.

According to a statement released by county conservation, this the brings total available funding for the initial phase of the trail’s construction to $1.2 million.

Phase 1 of the Red Rock Prairie Trail will extend between the Monroe Trailhead at Red Rock Park in Monroe to Bison Park Trailhead in Prairie City along the old Rock Island Railroad right-of-way, a distance of 8.5 miles. It will then link to a 5-mile system of bikeways that connect to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge Education Center. Construction is scheduled for fall 2018 or spring 2019.

Planners and volunteers are working to eventually extend the Red Rock Prairie Trail south to Lake Red Rock in Marion County and the system of trails which extend into Pella. Plans to extend west will bring the trail to Mitchellville and a connection to the Chichaqua Valley Trail. The connection to the Chichaqua Valley Trail will allow the Red Rock Prairie Trail to link to the 600-mile system of trails and bikeways in the Des Moines metro.

County Conservation and Hometown Pride committees have been working with the engineering firm Snyder and Associates, Inc. to develop the trail.

The project has been in development since 2014 when 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 rail bed will be used as the base for the majority of the trail.

Jasper County Hometown Pride and county conservation have started working with the City of Mitchellville to complete the project’s ultimate goal — to connect the Red Rock Prairie Trail with the Des Moines metro and central Iowa trail network.

Hometown Pride Community Coach Jeff Davidson confirmed earlier this month that Mitchellville officials are working on their own plan to connect the Red Rock Prairie Trail to the Chichaqua Valley Trail. Mitchellville has also enlisted Snyder & Associates, Inc. to design the connection.

In Monroe, design work is underway for a trailhead modeled after a historic train depot which once sat near the downtown square. It will feature a water filling station, picnic tables and heated bathrooms.