February 04, 2023

Red Rock Prairie Trail construction expected to start spring 2019

Construction for the Red Rock Prairie Trail, a multi-purpose recreational trail connecting Monroe and Prairie City, is expected to begin in spring 2019, according to officials.

Originally, the plan was to begin construction and pavement in 2018, but funding has pushed those plans were pushed back.

“We were a little optimistic in thinking we could get (construction) underway this year. We now know that it will begin in springtime,” Jasper County Hometown Pride community coach Jeff Davidson said. “Once we know exactly how much money we’re going to have (from the grants), we’re going to try to craft a project and get it underway.”

The first phase of the project, from Monroe to Prairie City, will cost about $2.1 million. So far, about $1.2 million is sitting in the bank. The project has to meet certain requirements and rules of the Iowa Department of Transportation, who administers much of the grant funds.

One of those rules is all of money has to be accounted for before construction begins.

“They’re not going to allow us to start the project, get it half done and then run out of money,” Davidson said. “We have to go by all of their rules in terms of getting the project under construction.”

In addition to the grant fundraising, much of the paperwork for the formalities of the project still has to be delivered and competed, said Keri Van Zante, director of Jasper County Conservation.

Van Zante said, so far, project planners have a federal recreational trail fund, state recreational trail funding, a federal land access grant and transportation alternative program funding.

“We’re really proud of the partnerships that have been established with this trail project. It is a monster of a project, but we have total confidence that we’re going to get all the funding we’re going to need,” Van Zante said. “It’s getting the funding set up, and getting through all the paperwork.”

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

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.

According to Davidson, Mitchellville officials have begun working on their own plan to connect the Red Rock Prairie Trail to the Chichaqua Valley Trail. Mitchellville has enlisted architectural firm Snyder & Associates, Inc. to design a connection, the same company which helped design the Red Rock Prairie Trail through Monroe and Prairie City.

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.

Hometown Pride secured the Federal Transportation Administration grant for $240,000 earlier this year, obtaining the final money needed to pave the trail.

Both Prairie City and Monroe City Councils have pledged $20,000 each as part of a 20 percent local match for the grant. Jasper County Conservation has also pledged $20,000 of the local match.

Combined with the $891,000 already available from federal and state grants, this has reached Hometown Pride and Jasper County Conservation’s original $1.2 million goal for the Red Rock Prairie Trail development, but bids came in higher than expected and has moved those goalposts back.

Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or at oshawl@newtondailynews.com