The effort to connect Council Bluffs to Underwood and Neola via trail continues. And once that’s done, the Pottawattamie County Trails Association and its partners hope to system to every town in the county and beyond.
The association serves as the fundraising and volunteer arm of the trails endeavor, working with Pottawattamie County Conservation to help raise local dollars for an endowment fund for construction and maintenance, according to Courtney Harter with the association.
“So we know the network is well cared for. And money is continually available for upkeep,” Harter said.
The trail currently extends from its head along Railroad Highway northeast of U.S. Highway 6 to just shy of Weston. Partners on the effort completed construction of two bridges over Mosquito Creek along the trail path.
One of the bridges features the “Goldfinch Gates” artwork of local artist Cait Irwin. Harter said the plan is to incorporate art throughout the trail system.
“Trails are the No. 1 amenity sought after by our community,” Iowa West Foundation Vice President of Grants and Initiatives Matthew Henkes said in an announcement about the art. “With the addition of colorful, engaging art, this becomes not just a trail but a place-based destination.”
Iowa West Foundation has been a great partner, providing matching funds toward the trails, Harter said. In all, the project to connect Council Bluffs to Neola will cost around $5 million. Harter said the association is working to raise about $2 million to finish the work.
The association raises funds predominantly through three events — the annual Biketober bicycle ride, which starts and ends on the 100 Block and circles Lake Manawa, held in October; a spring obstacle run at Arrowhead Park in Neola and a fall trail run at Arrowhead.
The trail run was new this year, conjured to replace the obstacle run in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harter said going forward the association will put on both runs.
“It was our way of trying to give people an event since we couldn’t do the obstacle course in April. And also a chance to try something new,” Harter said. “We plan to have it going forward.”
Another way to help? Giving Tuesday.
The annual day of giving will be held on Dec. 1. Harter said the association is always looking for volunteers, and, of course, monetary donations go a long way. Trails supports can give anytime between now and Giving Tuesday at shareomaha.org, with donation code GIVINGTUESDAY.
“Any money that can be given to help the endowment to create a new trail system for residents is the No. 1 goal for us,” she said.
Harter said the association and its partners hope to hope to continue construction on the trail to Neola in the spring. From there, the plan is to keep going. According to its website, the association is part of Frontier Iowa Trails, a regional network of multi-use trails advocates. FIT also works with existing trails groups, including the Wabash Trace Nature Trail and Nishna Valley (T-Bone) trails in its effort to connect western Iowa.