Bike to Work Week Follow-Up

May 15-19 was designated nationally as the 2017 Bike To Work Week. Dubuque area riders participated despite a wet week. Festivities culminated at Town Clock Plaza’s Dubuque Fest.

Prior to the week, Free Flight sponsored a Bike to Work Week (BTWW) promotion with WJOD radio host Ken Peiffer. Brian Walsh, owner of Free Flight, donated an electric bike as part of BTWW. City busses sported banners. Jeremy Burkhart with the Bike Coop, Dave Hartig and Parrish Marugg with Bicycle World, and Raki and Adonia Giannakouros all contributed time and energy as well.

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Bee Branch Creek Restoration Project and Trail Update

By Kristin Hill

Construction of the Upper Bee Branch Creek Restoration Project started in June 2015. The project required a lot of excavation, relocation of utilities, and construction. The creek channel is now finished and fully functional. This spring, crews will complete the remaining construction and landscaping. The City plans to host a ribbon cutting and community celebration on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. More details will be shared as plans for the event are finalized.

Amenities along the newly restored creek include the E. 24th St. overlook, a play area with slides, an outdoor classroom/amphitheater, the E. 22nd St. spillway, and a multi-use trail system that connects to the Heritage Trail and Mississippi River Trail (MRT). There is a street-level trail and a trail that runs along the edge of the creek, which passes underneath the E. 22nd St. and Rhomberg Ave. bridges. The trail system was designed to loop around the creek, which stretches from E. 24th St. to Garfield Ave. This loop is approximately one mile.

The on-street route from the Upper Bee Branch Creek to the Lower Bee Branch Creek will be Garfield Ave., to Pine St., to E. 19th St., to Washington St. When you turn east off Washington St. onto E. 16th St. and cross the railroad tracks you will find yourself at the Lower Bee Branch Creek.

The Lower Bee Branch trail runs along the creek and detention basin up to Kerper Blvd. (behind Dairy Queen and Fazoli’s). A portion of the trail closed in February 2016 for the construction of a new overlook. It re-opened this spring, while the overlook and adjacent parking lot are expected to open in June 2017. Until then, the City recommends trail users park on E. 15th St. or Sycamore St.

Improvements associated with the Lower Basin Overlook include a plaza, an open-air pavilion, drinking fountain, bike racks, trash receptacles, benches, lighting, and landscaping. Over the next five years, the City is looking to continue the Lower Bee Branch Trail around the detention basin and extend it over 12th St. and 11th St. to the Intermodal Transportation Center.

To sign up for Bee Branch Project-related email and/or text alerts, including information on the ribbon cutting on July 19, visit www.cityofdubuque.org/notifyme.


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Trail Improvements for 2015-16

Dienst Outlines Pedestrian and Bicycle Projects for 2015-2016

Jon Dienst, Civil Engineer from the Dubuque City Engineer’s Office, attended the May 28th Tri-State Trail Vision meeting to give an update on upcoming projects.  The very informative meeting highlighted the wide number and variety of trail-related tasks that occupy the Engineering Department. Dienst also works closely with Leisure Services Director Marie Ware and City Planner Laura Carstens to encourage trail usage and provide a higher quality of living for Dubuque area citizens.

During the fiscal 2015-2016 year, the Northwest Arterial Trail will be lengthened and paved from the McDonald’s on Holliday Drive to Chavanelle Drive, where bicyclists will be directed onto sharrows (on-street lanes) and eventually arrive at Bergfeld Pond.  This is funded by Iowa Department of Natural Resources REAP grants.

At the northeast end of the Northwest Arterial Trail, the Highway 52 and John Deere Road intersection will be the site for a small 10-stall parking lot. This will alleviate overflow parking that occurs at the Alliant substation driveway and blocks access for Alliant workers.  This project will be developed this fall.

The Bee Branch project will commence this summer with excavation of the main channel and the building of bridges between the 16th Street detention pond and 24th Street Comiskey Park. Trail construction will take place in 2016.

For those travelling by wheelchair, life just got easier around the city of Dubuque. The Department

of Justice has mandated that new ramps be installed for better wheelchair accessibility. So far, Clarke Crest received new ramps and 37 more will be built in the St. Anne and Clarke Drive areas.

Just west of the E. B. Lyons Center, the newly acquired Mines of Spain property sports a new trail that will open July 2015. The ½-mile long trail, meeting Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, will lead to a scenic overlook and an outdoor classroom.  An expanded parking lot, drinking fountains, restrooms and an outdoor pavilion will also be available for visitors.  Another unique feature along the trail is the State Tree Walk, which displays the state tree from each state.

Construction will begin soon on these projects and will hopefully enhance our trail availability and accessibility in Dubuque.

Categories: ADVOCACY, Walking/Hiking

Heritage Trail: A Mountain Trail in Prairie Country (Part 2)

If you missed Part 1, click here.


The first eight miles were opened for public use in 1983, and a trail ranger was hired in 1984, as additional funds were raised and new sections were opened. After bridge repairs and grading, two major activities were required to open each trail section: surfacing and fencing. Eight hundred tons of crushed, compacted limestone were applied to each mile of trail, creating a smooth, easily maintained surface similar to a baseball infield. More fencing was renovated along the trail in two months than had been repaired by the railroad in 12 years.

Volunteer workers and donated equipment were used to smooth the railbed, remove old ties, cut down overgrown trees, and clean out debris from bridges and culverts. Others were involved in fundraising, public relations with trail neighbors, and promotion activities, keeping administrative costs low. In addition to the estimated 25,000 hours of work accomplished by volunteers, their sense of personal investment and community ownership created a broad, growing base of support.  While volunteer support was a critical ingredient in the project’s early months, more formal support systems were just as important. As Heritage Trail, Inc. President Doug Cheever relates, “Volunteer energy can burn white hot sometimes, and that’s exciting to see. But that energy can burn out. Fortunately, there are public and private agencies who will fan the flames and add more fuel to the fire.” The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, for example, helped set the initial direction and then provided much needed technical assistance, legal and political intervention, interim funding, and encouragement during the first difficult years. The Foundation also provided a role model for Heritage Trail: the Cedar Valley Nature Trail was about two years
ahead of Heritage Trail in planning, development, and fundraising experience.

On June 7, Governor Terry Branstad formally opened Heritage Trail by removing the last railroad spike at Graf, the trail’s midpoint. From his restaurant and tavern across the street, Arvel “Smitty” Smith was watching and smiling. The winter before, he had remodeled and doubled the size of the kitchen in “Smitty’s Place.” Good thing, too: in this town of 70 that nearly died when the railroad left seven years ago, Smitty’s business has more than doubled since last year. He attributes it to the completion of the final segments of the trail, allowing a 26-mile round trip from either end of the trail to Graf and back. Completion of the $554,000 project of acquiring and developing Heritage Trail has economic significance for Dubuque, Dyersville, and other adjoining communities as well. The trail is expected to have 35,000 visitors in 1986, with a potential for 50-60,000 per year by 1988. As the total number of users grows, the portion of those who come from outside the area and out of state will be as high as 50% based on the experience of the more successful Wisconsin railroad trails.

old heritage trail pic

Way back when….
Picnic along the Heritage Trail at Twin Springs circa 1880s or 1890s. (Photo courtesy of Art Roche)

(+) Art

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New Wheelchair Accessible Prairie Trail Proposed for E.B. Lyons Nature Center

mines of spain logo

The Mines of Spain recently acquired 52 acres immediately west of the E. B. Lyons Nature Center. Plans for a paved Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) approved trail are in the works.

The partial map below shows some of the amenities of the trail. Off the map, the trail leads further north through a prairie to an overlook with Dubuque city vistas to the west, north, and east. An outdoor classroom will also be at the overlook site. Mown trails will spur off the paved trail. An information kiosk, expanded parking spaces, and an entrance with improved visibility are in the works as well.

Donations are currently being accepted by the Friends of Mines of Spain organization. Contact Wayne Buchholtz at 563-556-0620 for more information.

mines of spain map

Categories: Partnerships, Uncategorized, Walking/Hiking | Leave a comment

Mississippi Trails Hiking Club Tales

It might well be that the Mississippi Trails Hiking Club is one of the earliest organized walking groups in Dubuque, Iowa. The first City Recreation Commission director, Bernard M. Joy,
formed the club in May 1929. First by-laws stated that anyone 16 years or older should be of good moral character and disposition willing to abide by the by-laws. Members were able
to join the club if they were voted in by other club members, could be on time at the appointed weekly meeting starting place and memorize the TTTT test (a difficult tongue twister). Annual dues were one dollar (now two dollars), coffee fees were 5 cents and coffee pot washing was a weekly duty by turns. No firearms were allowed, all gates opened were expected to be closed, no hard liquor allowed, and carpoolers were to pay one cent per mile to the hike location. All trash was to be picked up, at least two persons must walk together, all cooking fires to be put out with water by assignees who were to remain on watch after others had left, and no wildflowers were to be picked.

The picnic foods were cooked over the fire, eaten and shared, the coffeepot drained, the group singing favorites included “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree”, “Reuben, Reuben”, “Paper Doll”, ”Strolling through the Park”, “Memories”, “Hike, Hike”, and “Hail, Hail.” Records were carefully kept by the secretary, listing the hikers on every weekend, every year, and credit given out in the numerical list at the annual meeting. Club trips were made to Western states parks, to Mexico by bus and Chicago by train.

Now, many years later in 2012 we still hike every Saturday rain or shine, warm or cold, high numbers or a few and records are kept of every member to be credited at the annual meeting in June at the wonderful new EB Lyons interpretive center on Bellevue Heights Rd off Hwy 52 at Key West. Watch the Telegraph Herald calendar for weekly listings and join us for a great Saturday hike at your own pace with the Mississippi Trails Hiking Club.

(+) Howard

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Heritage Trail: A Mountain Trail in Prairie Country (Part I)

Late in 1886, the people of Dubuque County celebrated the completion of the last major railroad to  be built in the upper Midwest,  linking  Dubuque  to  St.  Paul  and  Chicago.  The  Chicago  Great   Western  Railroad  developed  a  reputation  for innovation, which allowed it to compete  successfully with larger railroads and stimulate growth of the communities it served.

One hundred years later, the old railroad is again the focus of innovatively used energy, and once  again it is promoting growth and improving the quality of life of the surrounding area. But now the  banked and curved bridges crisscrossing the Little Maquoketa River are used by bicyclists, hikers,  and cross-­‐country skiers instead of speeding locomotives and 200-­‐car trains.

Heritage  Trail  is  a  380-­‐acre,  26-­‐mile  long  recreation  and  conservation  trail,  which exhibits  remarkable  diversity  in  its 400-­‐foot ascension from Dubuque to Dyersville. Rising westward from the Mississippi Valley at Sageville near Dubuque, the trail’s numerous curves parallel the Little Maquoketa River. Rugged woodland and sheer limestone bluffs give way to native prairie  as  the  trail  climbs  out  of  what  has  become  known  as  the  “Driftless  Area” into  the  gentle  rolling  uplands  of  the Maquoketa River basin to Dyersville.

Construction of the railroad changed the face of nearly all the land contained in the 100-­‐foot right-­‐of-­‐way, requiring either cutting through the rock bluffs or building up low areas. But a century of time has healed the wounds of railroad construction, leaving behind a narrow, nearly level corridor through a land with many of its original characteristics once again in evidence. In fact, a recently completed study of biotic communities along Heritage Trail by Thomas Blewett and Susan Miller of Clarke College reveals an inventory of 410 plant species including many rare prairie plants.

Heritage Trail illustrates why the Chicago Great Western was known as the “mountain railroad in prairie country.” Construction techniques more akin to rail lines in the mountains to the east or west were used to minimize the expense of cutting through or building up the roadway where possible. Meandering along the valley’s “path of least resistance,” the trail’s 53 curves and more than 30 bridges now give it special appeal for recreational use. The I% grade (one foot rise for each 100 linear feet), which required as many as eight helper engines for the largest of the heavily laden freight trains travelling west from Graf, now seems practically level to touring bicyclists and hikers.

A great deal of the interest shown by naturalists in Heritage Trail seems to revolve around its unique interface of two very  different  types  of  landscapes  and  habitats.  Perhaps  that
inspired  the  organizational  structure,  which  led  to  its preservation, combining private initiative with public ownership. When the concept of Heritage Trail emerged, there was no clear idea of what was in store. In 1973, a county recreation plan was approved by a panel of 20 residents drawn from across the county. One of the major recommendations was for the Dubuque County Conservation Board to purchase the railroad from Dubuque to Dyersville if it was abandoned. Six years later, in 1979, railroad authorities declared the bridges unsafe for trains and ended service. Early 1981 brought official abandonment  approval and the formation  of Heritage Trail, Inc., a voluntary non-­‐profit group formed to promote and assist the Dubuque County Conservation Board in acquiring the trail. Heartened by petitions signed by 2700 local residents urging trail acquisition, the group raised $12,000 for a non-­‐refundable down payment, and then another $43,000 to add to county funds for the purchase of 25 miles of trail. An agreement was signed making the corporation responsible for planning, fundraising, and development of the county-­‐owned trail. In all about $235,000 was needed to acquire the land, and about $5500 per mile for surfacing and fencing. Over
half of the total cost of the trail  was  donated  by  local  businesses  and  more  than  1200  individuals,  and  the  rest  was  matched  by  state  and  local  funds.

(+) Art

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Walking School Buses?

Did you know that Dubuque has walking school buses? What is a walking school bus? In November of 2011, the Dubuque Community School District received a $12,000 grant to expand its Walking School Bus program to five new schools. A collaborative effort of the Dubuque Community School District, the City of Dubuque, the East Central Intergovernmental Association (ECIA), and the Dubuque Safe Routes to School Committee, the Walking School Bus is a group of children walking to school with one or more adults. Adult supervision allows children to take advantage of a more active lifestyle while reducing safety concerns for families who live within walking or bicycling distance to school. Through the Walking School Bus, children get regular exercise, learn pedestrian safety skills, and adopt healthy habits at an early age.

Project leaders selected Audubon, Carver, Fulton, Kennedy, and Lincoln to pilot the Walking School Bus, as these elementary schools represent a diverse cross-section of the District’s older and newer schools. Fulton Elementary School implemented the Walking School Bus on a trial basis in the spring of 2011. Fulton administrators reported
a decline in bullying and harassment during the walking school bus and received fewer complaints from neighbors about the behavior of students walking to school. Project leaders are working to have multiple Walking School Bus routes operating at all five schools by spring 2013 and hope to expand the program to more schools in the future.

The Walking School Bus program runs on help from community volunteers. If you are interested in participating in the project, please contact Dan Fox at ECIA, 563-556-4166.

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