Plans have been laid to significantly expand the Chichaqua Valley Trail to the point where the trail would begin west of Des Moines and go “way past” Marshalltown, according to Jasper County Conservation Director Keri Van Zante.
“It’s not a small little thing we are dealing with,” Van Zante said.
The trail currently passes through several Jasper County communities and ends in Baxter.
While this expansion is great news for cycling enthusiasts, the issue the Jasper County Board of Supervisors faced at Tuesday’s meeting was how the county is going to pay for the portions of the trail that are already in Jasper County and in need of serious repair.
Van Zante said her office had received numerous complaints about the condition the trail is currently in and that her office used the $40,000 the board appropriated last June to have portions of the asphalt on the trail ground up.
A financial solution came from State Sen. Dennis Black who called Van Zante last Thursday. He let her know $180,000 from the Iowa Legislature could potentially be available for use in repairing the trail, if the supervisors approved a resolution to guarantee the county would match the amount.
“The money would come from the RIFF — Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund — and those are gaming taxes,” Van Zante said. “Should anybody be concerned that their state taxes are going to the trail — the fact is, if you don’t gamble, you don’t pay any money towards state funds for this project. It’s basically gambling funds — not your state taxes.”
In an email to the board, Black explained that Jasper County was eligible to receive these matching funds, if it approved the matter, under a passage in Senate File 2349 which states:
“Of the amount appropriated in this lettered paragraph, $180,000 shall be allocated to a county with a population between 36,000 and 37,000 as determined by the 2010 Federal Decennial Census for improvements to recreational trails.
Jasper County’s current populations was estimated at 36,842 during the 2010 census.
The board discussed the matter at length during Tuesday’s meeting and ultimately decided to approve providing matching county funds, but on several conditions. The first was contingent that the measure isn’t vetoed by the state. The second measure was that the county would not give more than $180,000, unless the state was offering a higher amount, at which the matter would be brought back to the board.
“My feeling on it is we built it, so we could at least maintain it,” board chair Joe Brock said. “We’ve kind of shied away from it because of the cost and now we have the opportunity to possibly do it for half-price ... We do have money set aside for capitol improvements and repair projects.”
Van Zante said her office was unable to provide quotes on a cost due to how quickly the offer came about. Both she and the board agreed that if the measure does pass in the Iowa Legislature, and that no additional funds were available, they would repair as much of the trail as the allocated $360,000 would allow them to.
Board member Dennis Stevenson said he didn’t like the fact this matter came about so quickly, but acknowledged it is the county’s responsibility to maintain the trail.
“I can support the $180,000 match involved, however, I think the project has to come in under that price, the state has to come through with their money — just all the above. Anything else, then we are going to have to go back to the table.”
Senior staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at, firstname.lastname@example.org