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Trails Plan Can Drive Progress

The Gazette

March 4, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

    The Johnson County Board of Supervisors should adopt the trails plan drafted last year at the boardís request.

    Formal adoption is important because this plan, unlike the one from 2000, prioritizes development of new trails and emphasizes making connections between existing trails. Having the plan on the books, along with a clear vision of how it will be carried out, should make the county more competitive in the scramble for state and federal funding for trails.

    In addition, adoption of the plan should provide the impetus for cycling/pedestrian groups in the county to form a more unified coalition to help drive projects to completion. In fact, formation of a County Trails Advisory Committee is a recommendation thatís been added to the plan at the behest of supervisors.

    Review and adoption of the plan are not on the supervisorsí agenda yet, but Chairman Mike Lehman plans to get to it this spring. In the meantime, residents can comment on the plan by writing or e-mailing supervisors.

    When they review the plan, supervisors need to carefully consider how priorities are laid out. Criteria used to establish those priorities include developing trails that will have the highest use first; increasing connections to existing urban trail networks in Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty; targeting destination-based development to promote commuter and recreational cycling; and making connections with other trail systems within Johnson County and with adjacent counties.

    Thatís a smart way to approach expanding the trail network, and public feedback indicates people want connections between higher population areas in the county first. Thatís what the plan does in identifying five trail projects as high-priority corridors, but supervisors should consider one alteration in the priority list.

    Completing the Dubuque Street trail to link Iowa City, North Liberty and the Coralville trail system is identified as a top-level priority. Estimated cost for the two segments, a total of 2.9 miles, is $580,000. But connecting that trail to Linn County, through North Liberty and along Highway 965, is a level-two priority.

    Those projects should be undertaken together. And there are indications that Linn County could be a partner in at least the northernmost section.

   Brian Fagan, a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council, called last week at a gathering of community leaders and young adults, for those leaders to lobby the Johnson County supervisors to get on the stick and adopt the plan. Why? Because he wants to be able to ride from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City and Coralville and back again. Heís convinced many people from Linn County would ride to destinations in Johnson County and would spend money while they do it. The same is true for people in Johnson County who would ride north.