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Trailing Off

Bikes Provide Cheap Fun and Transportation

Hieu Pham

Iowa City Press-Citizen

June 4, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, 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 Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

There are about 35 miles of trails running through Iowa City, Coralville and North Liberty -- all of which were created in the last decade.

John Yapp, assistant transportation planner for Johnson County Council of Governments, said more trails have been developed as communities recognize the benefits of providing people, especially families, safe and healthy recreational outlets.

"It's a quality of life issue," Yapp said. "Some business owners look for trails and park systems when they look to invest in a community. It shows the level of investment the community has in its recreation."

Currently, there are three major trails in Iowa City: The Iowa River Corridor Trail is the longest and most heavily used and runs between Napoleon Park in south Iowa City and north to the Coralville Reservoir and east to North Liberty; Willow Creek Trail on the west side; and Sycamore Greenway Trail in the southeast.

In Coralville, the Clear Creek Trail connects with Iowa City and the University of Iowa's west campus parking facility. Other trails include the North Ridge Trail, which has a pedestrian tunnel underneath Interstate 80 and continues to North Liberty and also the Oakdale Trail and Auburn Hills Trails.

The North Liberty Trail connects with many of Coralville's trails. North Liberty's trail starts at 10th Street and goes to the University of Iowa Oakdale Campus. Another major trail in the city is the Liberty Centre Trail on the north side.

Terry Dahms, a trails advocate and member of Friends of Iowa River Scenic Trail, said he uses trails for both recreation and a way to commute to work.

"Having more trails is a way to push the popularity of bicycling," he said. "What's happening is as communities grow and spread out, we're losing the generation of bicycle riders. Kids, for example, no longer bike to school."

But as gas prices continue to rise and the nation's waistline expands, Dahms said more people are picking up bicycling as a favorite pastime. He said families, in particular, are attracted to the safety and convenience of riding on trails rather than on the street.

Yapp, who said he also uses trails as a way to add more physical activity to his routine, agreed.

He said Iowa City is working on extending trails from the east side to First Avenue. In North Liberty, officials are building trails to connect areas downtown to the north side neighborhoods, and the Clear Creek Trail in Coralville will soon be connected to West High in Iowa City and later to Tiffin.

"We're also working with Johnson County to extend their trail systems," he said.

The Dubuque Trail is the only paved trail in the county. Other trails around Lake MacBride are nature trails built with limestone, which are not as convenient for recreational riders, Dahms said.

In addition, officials from Johnson and Linn Counties are discussing a trail connecting Iowa City to Cedar Rapids. Two possible routes are proposed for the trail: one along Highway 965 taking riders from Linn County by Swisher and Shueyville, through North Liberty and on to Coralville and Iowa City, and the other would run along the Hoover Nature Trail into Cedar Rapids southeast to Ely and Solon before cutting southwest to North Liberty on the American Discovery/Iowa Trail route, going south to Iowa City.

Details about what would be the most extensive trail system in Johnson County will be worked out by Oct. 1, the deadline officials hope to meet to apply for funds.