Questions and answers about trails in Wright County were the topic of a public gathering Sept. 1 at Belmond City Hall. The meeting was organized by the Wright County Trail Committee and the Wright County Conservation Department.
The main focus of the meeting was the Prairie Lands Trail along the old railroad bed from Belmond to Mason City. Cerro Gordo County has completed a limestone trail from Mason City south, almost to Burchinal. There are 13-14 miles left to get to the county line southwest of Meservey.
Belmond, of course, long ago completed the Franklin Grove Heritage Trail through town. Two years ago, the first piece of the Prairie Land Trail was paved by the county, from the north end of Belmond’s trail to the three-way intersection northeast of town.
According to Wright County Conservation Board Director Eric Rector, it will cost about $1.1 million to finish the 5.25 miles of trail from Belmond to the county line. The first 1.25 miles from the three-way corner and east will be paved. A parking area will then be installed at 120th Street and Union Avenue. The final four miles to the county line will be made of crushed limestone.
“We figure that’s about as far as anyone from Belmond would want to pedal with their kids and then turn around and go back to town,” Rector told the group of about 16 citizens. “We can install twice as much rock trail for the same price as an asphalt trail.”
“We ride on rock trails all the time,” commented a woman in the audience.
The 1.25 miles of pavement is now being evaluated by an engineer thanks to funding from the Jacobson Fund for Belmond.
Rector said the plan was to have Wright County’s portion completed by 2023, but the Covid-19 crisis and state budget cuts have pushed that back a year or two. It’s going to take some time to secure grants and other funding. County conservation is also accepting donations from the public.
“Our goal with trails is to encourage the most users we can, but with no environmental damage,” Rector stated. “When you get northeast of Belmond, there is a lot of prairie that is mostly undisturbed. There are plants most people have never seen. Years ago, the railroad just came in, laid the tracks, and never disturbed the areas along side.”
Rector said the county owned land is 100 feet wide -- 50 feet each way from the center of the railbed. There are some scrub trees that need to be removed, and some noxious plants that need to be dealt with.
“You have to remember that there weren’t trees on the Iowa prairie. There were some trees along the rivers. But only oaks were tough enough to withstand the prairie fires,” Rector remarked.
A farmer in the audience asked about drainage tiles under the trail.
“You have the right to drain your land,” Rector replied. “We’d like to know now if there are any problems so we can get the tiles fixed. It’s better to do it now than dig up the completed trail later.”
One possible snag in getting the trail to Meservey is a half mile of railbed in Franklin County. It would cost about $85,000 to prepare that section, and Franklin County has stated it is not against the trail, but it will not provide any funding for it.
Other existing and future trails in the county were discussed at the meeting. The.... read the entire story in the Belmond Independent.