Good afternoon!† My name is Terry Dahms.† I live in Iowa City.
Iím delighted to be here!† I love talking about trails.† I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you today.
Iím going to presume that all of you share my enthusiasm for trails.† So Iím Ďpreachiní to the choirí as they say.† Iím going to skip all the classic justifications for trails.† You understand what those areóeconomic, environmental, social impact, and a transportation or commuting function.† We can review those later, if you want to.† When I do talk about the reasons for trails, I never go beyond the Ďeconomicsí.† It †IS a very important justification, but it seems itís the only one elected officials are interested in, and their eyes start to glaze over if you go beyond Ďeconomicsí.†
If I had to give a title to what Iím going to say, it would be---ĎA recipe for Trails: the Missing Ingredientí.† Iíve been working on trails for about 25 years.† Believe me, I never intended for that to happen!† I became very interested in trails after a weekend trip to the Sparta-Elroy trail.† This is the one with three RR tunnels; one about a mile long.† I was an immediate convert!† I was on the Hoover Nature Trails Board for many years, and served as Secretary.† About 15 years ago I co-founded FIRST (Friends of the Iowa River Scenic Trail)† (We had to put Scenic in there; otherwise it would have been FIRT!).† I never intended for that to happen either!† However, I couldnít find a local group doing trail advocacy.† So I helped co-found one.† ††Currently Iím on the JCCOG (Johnson Co. Council of Governments) Trails and Bicycling Subcommittee and also the Technical Advisory Committee.† Significant funding flows through these committees!† Just a couple weeks ago, on the 25th† †of October, the Trails and Bicycling committee distributed just under $400,000 to two projects.†
Iíve experienced some mistakes.† The Hoover Nature Trail collapsed after Millie Gregg died in 1997 when HNT had over $300,000 in uncollateralized debt.† At the time it was like watching a trail wreck in slow motion.† It was painful and I still regret today what happened.† On the other hand, FIRST has been exceptionally successful, if I do say so myself!† One of the things we did right was to agree on a mission statement back in about 1990 within months of our founding.† Our mission statement was ďto complete a continuous, multi-use recreational trail about 20 miles in length, from Napoleon Park on the south boundary of Iowa City to the Coralville Reservoir.† It took 15 years to accomplish after a very slow start!
Iíd like to show you a few slides.† When the recipe is working, some really good things get done.† This first one is a pedestrian bridge across the Iowa River at the Iowa River Power and Light dam, now converted of course into a restaurant.† This is a $1.7 million project.† What you see here is about 350 feet of bridge across the top of the dam.† (having originally been built in 1844, rebuilt in 1916 with concrete over wooden timbers)† Prior to this bridge there was a catwalk that had seen better days and was blocked off.† I never saw anyone on it!† There is another 350 feet of approach on the other side of the river.† The bridge makes a connection between Coralville and a trail system leading into Iowa City.† This has been a goal for years.
This is a picture of Oakdale Boulevard.† This is looking West near the dead-end of Oakdale Blvd.† This is an example of an arterial street.† An arterial street is a standard, like the building codes developers must follow for a new house.† An arterial street is 31 feet in width, which is wider than normal.† This additional width accommodates what we call the Ďextremeí bicyclist.† Extreme bicyclists have good equipment, are experienced, and are physically fit, as a general rule.† Many extreme bicyclists could complete a RAGBRAI without additional endurance training!† There is not a striped, so-called Ďbike laneí.† Bike lanes are a contentious subject and we have generally decided not to use them.† Please note the wide, 8 foot sidewalk on the right.† An arterial street includes a 8 foot sidewalk on one side, and a 4 foot sidewalk on the other side.† The 4 foot sidewalk is usually added after- the area becomes more developed.† What happens is that any new street designated as an arterial street will automatically include an 8 foot sidewalk on one side.† As trail advocates, we do not have to plead or justify the wide sidewalk; itís part of the design.† Iowa City, Coralville, and North Liberty all have this arterial street standard.
Finally, this is a picture of a pretty little section of trail between Rocky Shore and 1st Ave. in Coralville.† It follows the river between the railroad tracks and river behind the Coralville Strip, which is also highway 6.
Now, let me talk about the Ďrecipeí.† The vision for a trail usually starts with a trails advocacy group, just like the one you have here.† This is very important and the first ingredient.† The primary goal of your group should be to develop public support for the trail.† There are many ways you can do that, usually through the local papers.† You should also build a mailing list so you can send out updates to your members and contributors.† These days you should also have email addresses and probably a website.† From your members and fund raising events you will be able to raise funds for mailings and concept plans, prepared by an architectural landscaping firm.† These concept plans are relatively inexpensive; usually no more than a couple thousand dollars for a large plan.† The concept plan will help lots of people visualize your proposed trail.† Remember the cliche--- ĎA picture is worth a thousand wordsí!† Make sure your core group is prepared for the long term.† It takes a long time to develop a trail system.† FIRST has had the same core group for years.† Organizing this advocacy group will be the easiest thing you do.†
Trails succeed when there is political support!† This is the most important point I want to make today.† Elected officials respond to the people who elected them.† Elected officials are more responsive if they perceive there is a group of their constituents, especially a large group, who are organized, speak in a reasonable tone, and have a good persuasive case.† This is where your trail groups come into play.† Elected officials also understand that for every letter, or email, or person they listen to, there are another 2, or 10, or 1000 who feel exactly the same way.†
To develop trails, you are going to need money; lots of money.† Money is the second ingredient, if you will.† I donít recommend you use your trails group to try and raise the money you will need for construction.† Itís very difficult to raise that kind of money!† One reason itís hard to raise large contributions is because itís difficult to recognize those donors.† Where do you put the plaque?† Whereís the building?!† Donors want to point to something tangible and say, ďSee that building.† I helped pay for it!Ē† Hoover Nature Trail tried to pay for trail construction, with the assumption that donors would help pay off the loans.† It didnít work and was an unrealistic expectation.†
Expensive is very relative.† Roads are expensive.† In comparison to roads, trails are cheap.† I80 will be expanded to 3 lanes each direction through Iowa City/Coralville.† It will cost $70 million for 10 miles.† I235 is being completely rebuilt through Des Moines at a cost of almost $500 million; Ĺ billion dollars for 20 some miles.† Challenge the myth that trails are expensive!† Money for trails must come from grants and public coffers.† There was a little bit of good news recently.† Funding for the Iowa Trails Recreation Fund was restored at the $700,000 level.† Because of reversions, for about the last 5 years this fund actually had a negative balance of minus $1,300,000.† So essential funding was restored at the $2,000,000 level.† Unfortunately there was no catch up money allocated.† Even at the $2,000,000 level, grant requests are far above the funding available, quite often an order of magnitude, or $20 million in proposals for $2million to be awarded.† This is very typical and indicates the pent up demand for new trails.† We need to work on a different source of funding for trails at the state level.† In brief, there needs to be some parity between money for road construction and money for trails.† This is essentially what the new Federal surface transportation funding accomplishes.† This legislation, entitled SAFETEA-LU (for Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act-a Legacy for Users) set aside 1.2% of the total bill, which was $286.5 billion, for Transportation Enhancements.† 1.2% amounted to $3.5 billion over 5 years.† Historically, about 75% will go towards biking, walking, historical preservation, and scenic beautification.† The state of Iowa DOT should do the same.† Or Iowa could do what the state of Missouri has done.† 1/10th of 1% of the state sales tax is allocated for trails, parks, and recreational facilities.
Money is tied very closely to the last ingredient, political support.† Political support is quite often the missing ingredient, especially beyond the local, urbanized area.† Urbanized areas that belong to COGís (Councils of Governments) have been very successful because they have access to funds deriving from the Federal Highway Program.† Because the numbers are so huge, the amounts finally falling through to the local level is still significant.†
At the state level, things went from bad to worse in 1999, just after Governor Vilsack was elected, when he signed into law HF 476.† This bill singled out trails and prohibited condemnation of agricultural land for recreational trails because a trail was deemed a PRIVATE recreational development.† Of course, thatís ridiculous!† I wrote Governor Vilsack, along with hundreds of other advocates, advising and urging him not to sign this bill.† He did anyway.† We predicted it would have damaging effect on the completion of some trails.† It did and still does.† This last year legislation to repeal this part of the law at least made it into committee.† It didnít make it out of committee though. †Earlier I mentioned the Sparta-Elroy trail.† Guess whose home town Elroy is?† Anybody know?† Ex- Governor Tommy Thompson, who is now George W. Bushís Secretary of Health and Human Services!† Iím sure you realize that he understood all of those justifications for a trail that we didnít discuss!† He used his position to make sure that trail, and others, got built.† What a contrast to our Governor!† Itís very difficult to make significant progress without political support.† And itís much better if that support comes from a high level!
I think we will continue to see lots of new recreational trails being built in communities, where local officials can direct how taxes are spent, and in the COGís around the state.† In the rural areas it is going to be more difficult until we can get things changed.† Iím optimistic!† Just a month away the first of 77 million baby boomers begin to turn 60 years of age.† Iím one of those.† As we begin to rise to positions of political influence, the support for trails will rise too.† I canít wait and itís about time!