The following recommendations are designed to help
accomplish the statewide trails vision for Iowa.
Increase Funding for Trail Projects
The primary issue that stymies increased trail development
is funding. The Iowa DOT and DNR is currently able to fund, at best,
25 percent of trail applications to the funding programs they manage.
In keeping with Iowas goal to become the premier trails state,
additional funding should be secured for trail projects, and additional
funding sources and innovative financing mechanisms should be explored.
There are several ways in which additional funding
may be secured:
Establish a Trails Advisory Group
- State agencies, principally the DOT and DNR, should advocate increased
funding support for trail programs, including the State Recreational
Trails Program. The most effective means of proving the need for such
an increase is to demonstrate the shortfall in funding of trail projects
each year. As described above, a significant amount of trail projects
each year go unfunded. It can, therefore, be demonstrated to the Iowa
Legislature that there is a statewide need that is not being met,
and that additional funding is needed.
- State agencies and local governments should work together to find
ways that garner additional trails funding for development, promotion,
and maintenance, such as new grant programs or loans. At Trails Advisory
Group meetings described below, trail developers, funders, and advocates
could set forth a strategy for increasing funding for trails projects
in Iowa, and for using available funding more efficiently. This unified
approach would demonstrate support for trails at all levels.
- The Trails Advisory Group should consider the possibility of accessing
funds from private sources, such as foundations, national non-profits,
and corporations. In some states, snowmobile manufacturers provide
significant funds for the construction and maintenance of snowmobile
trails. The same might be asked of bicycle, in-line skate, or OHV
manufacturers. In addition, greenway corridors may offer the opportunity
to partner financially with foundations and non-profit organizations
such as The Nature Conservancy, the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation,
or the Trust for Public Land. Additional private funding sources should
be considered by the Trails Advisory Group.
A small group representing trail owners, funders, and
user groups should be convened regularly to consider current development
practices and strive to improve their effectiveness. The groups
meetings, which should take place at least annually, would be strategic
in nature "working meetings" including discussion
on the status of trails in Iowa and planning for future trail development.
The meetings would be convened by the DOT or DNR, and could be moderated
by an independent party, either a professional consultant or, perhaps,
a non-profit organization or agency representative from another state.
The Trails Advisory Group would be similar to the Iowa
Trails 2000 Technical Advisory Committee, and may include representatives
from the following groups:
- Iowa DOT
- Iowa DNR
- Other state agencies that may offer technical support, such as the
Department of Economic Development or the Department of Cultural Affairs
- State Legislators
- The Governors Office
- The Federal Highway Administration
- Counties, MPOs, and RPAs
- Local governments
- Trail user groups
- Non-profit organizations involved in trails planning or implementation,
such as the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation or the Iowa Trails Council.
The Trail Advisory Group should focus on the following
- Tracking of trail projects throughout the state, with the goal of
keeping a statewide system map up-to-date.
- Analysis and streamlining of the various funding processes. The
Federal Highway Administration recently performed a peer evaluation
of the TEA-21 funding process in Iowa and several other states. The
findings of this study should be considered.
- A review of trail funding programs and/or funding prioritization criteria.
As discussed in Chapter 6: Implementing the Vision,
trails will be developed both by state agencies and by local governments
with funding assistance from the state. Funding programs should be periodically
reviewed to ensure they are still focused on meeting state goals and implementation
- Evaluation of the status of trails implementation in Iowa. This
evaluation should include a determination of whether the current rate
of trail implementation is adequate. Between 1990 and 2000, the average
rate of trail implementation was approximately 78 miles per year.
In order to achieve the statewide trails vision in a timely manner,
this rate should be increased. The Trails Advisory Group should discuss
how to accomplish this task.
- Evaluation of trail promotion and maintenance. These evaluations
would assess completed trails, and offer additional guidance on effectively
maintaining and marketing them.
- Coordination and partnerships between agencies, local communities,
and trail groups. A statewide vision requires involvement from numerous
implementers. Partnerships are particularly important in the case
of rail-trails, where the DOT, the DNR and a government agency may
all work together to secure, plan, and develop such a corridor. At
Trails Advisory Group meetings, partnerships should be stressed and
enhanced, with statewide trails implementation as the ultimate goal.
The strength of the Trails Advisory Group would lie
in its ability to forge partnerships and bring all the different levels
or jurisdictions of government together for one cause. By bringing representatives
of a variety of trails developers, funders, and advocates to the same
table, Iowas statewide trails vision can be more effectively implemented
as a common vision.
Increase Rate of Trails Development
At the current rate of trail development in Iowa, the
statewide trails vision set forth in Iowa Trails 2000 would take
approximately 56 years to complete. Iowa is currently building approximately
78 miles of trails per year, generally accomplished by local communities
with funding assistance from state sources. This rate should be at least
Trails are in high demand. Throughout the public involvement
process for Iowa Trails 2000 there has been extensive support
for more trails in the state. Whether through specific trail corridor
suggestions or general sentiment, the people of Iowa have placed a high
priority on trails implementation. The statewide trails vision should
be a high priority task for the state as a whole.
More Proactive Role by State Agencies
Previous to Iowa Trails 2000, the DOT has principally
acted as a trail funder, and has not been an active developer of trails
in the state. The DOT and other state agencies should increase their
direct involvement in trails projects, in part to resolve the dilemma
of lack of funding in some regions of the state. Legislative changes
may be needed to increase state agency involvement in trails development.
An increase in direct state involvement in trails development
could be done in several ways:
Subsequent Trails System Plans
- The DOT could take a more active role in the preservation of abandoned
railroad corridors in cases where local groups are promoting trails.
The DOT is well-positioned to secure such corridors, because the right
of first refusal falls to the state. By preserving abandoned railroad
corridors, either through trail construction or rail- or utility-banking,
the DOT can effectively set aside extensive, high-quality corridors
for future trail construction. In such cases, the DOT may later partner
with a local government to actually develop the trail, but the first,
crucial step of corridor preservation should be more actively pursued
by the DOT.
- The DOT and DNR should be prepared to assist local governments in
implementing difficult projects by coordinating between agencies and/or
assisting with the project. This practice establishes ongoing partnerships
between state and local agencies that go beyond funding applications.
- The DOT and DNR should complete appropriate system plans that further
delineate trail corridors for which each agency will be responsible. These
trail system plans, based on the statewide trails vision outlined in Chapter
3 will lay the framework for actual trails implementation. These
plans are discussed further below.
Iowa Trails 2000 provides a broad vision for
trails in Iowa, and is designed to assist state agencies and local governments
in planning and developing trails. This document does not set forth
specific corridors for development, nor does it prioritize trail projects.
The statewide trails vision is a starting point for further trails planning,
particularly those system plans that outline priorities and programs.
As discussed in Chapter 6: Implementing
the Vision, trails in Iowa will be developed either by local governments,
often with funding assistance from the state or federal government; or by
state agencies themselves based on approved plans. System plans, both on
a statewide and a local level, are the backbone for the implementation of
the statewide trails vision. Corridors shown on statewide plans, such as
the DOTs bicycle/pedestrian plan or the DNRs OHV policy plan,
could be implemented directly by the state or jointly between the state and
regional and local governments. Corridors shown on local, regional, or county
plans should be selected and implemented by local agencies through funding
applications to the state.
Examples of system plans that could be developed include:
- A Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian System Plan, completed and implemented
by the DOT.
- A statewide OHV policy plan, completed and implemented by the DNR.
- A statewide canoe/kayak route designation program, administered
by the DNR.
- A statewide equestrian system plan, completed and implemented by
the DNR and the Iowa Equestrian Trails Council.
- An interconnected system of regional snowmobile trail system plans,
completed by local snowmobile clubs and coordinated by the DNR.
- A statewide mountain bike policy plan, completed and implemented
by the DNR.
- Multi-modal regional trail system plans completed and implemented
by MPOs, RPAs, county conservation boards, local governments, and
local trails groups.
Subsequent trails system plans should be completed
by any agency that intends to develop trails. System plans should include
at least the following information:
- A detailed inventory of the system area, whether it be regional,
statewide, or local. This inventory should include natural areas,
populated areas, points of interest, existing recreational facilities,
and other important attractions.
- A trail system map, which shows connections throughout the system
area and specific trail projects to be implemented.
- A discussion of trail use modes. The system plan should delineate
which modes will be allowed or accommodated on the trail corridors
shown. Some system plans will be mode specific (such as the DOTs
bicycle/pedestrian plan), and others will accommodate a variety of
modes within a certain geographical area (a county conservation boards
county trails plan).
- An overall cost estimate of the proposed system. Useful costing information
by trail type is included in Chapter 5: Cost Analysis,
but consideration should be given to potential bridges, property acquisition,
and other issues unique to a particular plan.
- An implementation strategy for constructing the trails shown on
the system plan, including a targeted timeline, prioritization methods,
agency involvement, and funding strategies.
Completion of trails system plans would essentially
create a statewide network for each trail mode. Every user type would,
eventually, be guaranteed a far-ranging, interconnected trail system.
These statewide modal networks would be complimented by local systems
designed to provide connections to the statewide networks and offer
opportunities for shorter trail experiences, both for recreation and
Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation
The DOT has recently adopted a bicycle and pedestrian accommodation
guidance for state roads and highways. This guidance (as described in Appendix
C) will provide for the inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian facilities
on certain elements of the state highway system.
Local jurisdictions, namely counties and cities, should
consider developing similar policies for their roadways. By accommodating
bicycles and pedestrians within road rights-of-way, the breadth of the statewide
trails vision can be increased. In addition, trails projects in road rights-of-way
may benefit from funding types that may not be used for other trails (see
Chapter 6: Implementing the Vision).