Multiple celebrations brought out hundreds of people to welcome the Red Rock Prairie Trail to the communities of Prairie City and Monroe. Spanning 10 miles between the towns on the former railroad bed, the trail has been a long time coming for Jasper County Conservation.
“This was going on with the conservation board before I even started in 2005. I think the original piece of this was from Monroe to Diamond Trail road in a trade,” Jasper County Conservation Director Keri Van Zante said. “We started working on it from there.”
The festivities started in Prairie City with a ribbon cutting at the town’s entrance park. Community members, cyclists and just those interested in the trail came out to be a part of the new beginning.
“The trail is really going to be an enhancement to our city, not only in economic development but also in just simple quality of life,” Prairie City Mayor Eric Imerman said. “It gives us a place to walk, a place to ride, to do recreational events, this is a real enhancement to the city.”
From there, the cyclists traveled south on the trail to Monroe for a second ribbon cutting ceremony along with food and drinks to mark the occasion. Smiles and well wishes were heard throughout the event as the new recreation amenity was official opened.
The trail is a new concrete recreational path from Monroe through Prairie City and to the entrance of Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge. Eventually, the plan is to connect to the trail systems in Mitchellville and Altoona to the west and Lake Red Rock to the east.
Completing the project has been a group effort. Jasper County Conservation teamed up with community leaders in Prairie City and Monroe along with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation to acquire an 10-mile stretch of the abandoned railway spanning between the cities.
“Lots of partners,” Van Zante said. “The Jasper County Supervisors, Jeff Davidson from JEDCO, Sue Ponder from the Prairie City Library, who knew the librarian from Prairie City did so much for bike trails.”
Through the efforts of Van Zante and her partners, the trail had substantial grant funding for the more than $3 million project, including a $510,000 Federal Lands Access Program grant, a $263,711 Federal Recreational Trails grant, a $240,000 Transportation Alternatives Program grant and a $116,839 State Recreational Trails grant. Local contributions were also made by Prairie City and Monroe.
“We’re not done with this trail, we have plans to go on to Mitchellville and beyond,” Van Zante said. “The original intent of this trail was to connect three federal areas from Lake Red Rock to Neal Smith to Saylorville, that is the grand plan of this trail, so we are looking forward to that. It will happen slowly but it will definitely happen.”
Contact Jamee A. Pierson at 641-792-3121 ext. 534 or email@example.com