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First phase of Hoover Trail funding approved

State trail fund, conservation bond to cover cost

By Doug Lindner
Solon Economist
SOLON– It’s a go.
The first phase of the Hoover Trail project has received $679,699 in funding from the Iowa Department of Transportation’s (DOT) State Recreational Trails Programs.
The state funding, coupled with money from the county’s Conservation Bond Fund, will enable construction of the first segment of a dedicated recreational trail between Solon and Ely, according to Johnson County Conservation Department Program Manager Brad Friedhof.
That first segment will be of specific interest to Solon residents because it includes the trailhead at the Solon Recreation and Nature Area (SRNA), which will also serve the Lake Macbride Trail. The two trails will actually be separated at the trailhead and will run side-by-side through portions of the area nearest Solon.
The 5.8-mile section of the Hoover Trail between Solon and Ely, referred to as “The Missing Link,” would provide trail connectivity between four of Iowa’s major cities– Waterloo and Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, according to a commission order on the DOT’s website.
The state received 43 applications for funding under the State Recreational Trails Program, representing $54.793 million in trail projects. Out of $23.4 million in requests, the state awarded $3.4 million to six projects, including the Hoover Trail.
Friedhof said the DOT had suggested breaking the project into segments, so Johnson County applied for $2 million and received 46 percent of that amount.
That’s enough to account for 60 percent of the budget for the first phase in Solon, Friedhof said. The remainder will come from the Conservation Bond Fund, approved as a ballot measure in 2008 to provide funds to the department to acquire and develop public lands.
The estimated budget for the entire Hoover Trail project is $4.3 million, to be broken into three phases and constructed over at least three years.
The first phase will start with the creation of the trailhead at the SRNA and a hard surface trail that will head west next to the Lake Macbride Trail for about a third of a mile. It then heads northwest on a railroad bed just east of Polk Avenue to Highway 382.
“It will be basically creating a roundabout, creating some directional signs to get people to downtown Solon” and highlighting the amenities available in the community, Friedhof said of the SRNA trailhead.
Solon has dining opportunities, he said, but also services that could be necessary for visitors, like medical care, a grocery store and a library.
“We’re hoping to draw people from all over Eastern Iowa, as well as hopefully nationwide,” Friedhof said.
Construction on the first phase should start next summer or early fall, and while that’s underway, Friedhof will be looking for funding sources for the remaining two phases, including federal grants and corporate and individual donors.
The second segment will pick up where Linn County leaves off at the Linn/Johnson county line, extending the trail from Seven Sisters Road to a point where the trail crosses Ely Road.
The final segment fills in the gap, last because it aligns the most with Ely Road, which will be the subject of extensive reconstruction by the Johnson County Secondary Roads Department.
The Ely Road project will be completed over several construction seasons as well, with grading and culvert work beginning this year, and road reconstruction in 2017-2018. When completed, a portion of the roadbed will be raised to mitigate flood events and paved shoulders will be added. Secondary Roads is considering making the Highway 382 intersection a three-way stop or a roundabout.
Friedhof said the Hoover Trail project may have some unique federal funding prospects because the trail utilizes property belonging to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and has an end destination near the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.
“They have a real interest to connect people to those amenities as well,” Friedhof said. “They want to get users onto their property.”
The county will also make application to companies serving the region which offer grant or funding opportunities.
“We’re hoping that these (trails) create healthy behaviors in the citizens of Johnson County and Eastern Iowa,” Friedhof said, which some corporate partners might see as a worthwhile undertaking.
The county currently has an application submitted for a federal recreational trails grant, but the outcome won’t be known for several months.
“We just wait and cross our fingers,” he said. “Once we get somebody working, we’d like to keep them going.”