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

Sponsor a Mile of the Heritage Trail for the Dubuque Smart Plan Study

This is an opportunity for you to sponsor part of an exciting study that’s about to take place. We’re trying to raise $650 (26 miles X $25 per mile) to assist with travel and accommodations costs for researchers coming to Dubuque County later this summer. Heritage Trail was selected to be the subject of an American Planning Association voluntary planning process. Experts from around the country will visit and interview stakeholders, and study our trail and communities in order to recommend upgrades and funding opportunities that will make Heritage Trail a year-round premier recreational destination, with regional economic development capabilities. It’s all part of the Dubuque County Smart Planning Consortium. Visit www.dubuquesmartplan.org  for more information. (Also see a related article on page 6 of this newsletter about this organization’s work.)
Tri State Trail Vision has contributed $500 toward the amount needed to transport and house the researchers. Your contribution of $25 will cover a “mile’s worth” of the additional $650 that we’re hoping to raise. Make your check payable to “Tri State Trail Vision” and mail to TSTV Treasurer Michael Loebach, 1155 Rosedale, Dubuque, IA 52001. Contributions are needed by July 7th.

(+) Tony

Another Successful Bike to Work Week in 2012

Another successful Bike to Work Week has come and gone. The weather could not have been more perfect for the week. We had 84 riders for the week ranging in age from 20 to 79 years old! The average daily commute was 9 miles. The longest trip was 38 miles, and the shortest trip was 1 mile. In total, bicycle commuters rode over 3,100 miles! To put that in perspective, Tri-State bicycle commuters rode across the state of Iowa and back again 5 times! Assuming everyone would have driven a car instead of a bike for the week, Tri-State  bicycle commuters reduced their CO2 emissions by an estimated 1.3 metric tons. Lastly, when considering the price of gas, Tri- State bicycle commuters ended the week not only healthier and greener, but  wealthier too! Of course, just because the week is over doesn’t mean you can’t ride anymore. You can ride, free of charge, all summer. Thanks for all of your support, and I hope to see  everyone riding to work or on the trails.
(+) Michael

ADVOCATE: The Heritage Trail Bridge

Tri-State Trail Vision supports the Heritage Trail Bridge Project.   With the understanding that the county has to work within certain budgetary constraints and that not all projects are appropriate for the county to take on, we stand firm that the Heritage Trail Bridge should be a priority.  The Heritage Trail Bridge Project should be viewed in terms of:

1)      Economic development. Increasingly, individuals are choosing where to live based on recreational opportunities.  It is vital that Dubuque County develop such opportunities in order to attract a talented and entrepreneurial 21st century workforce.

In “The Rise of the Creative Class,” Richard Florida noted “Creative class people value active outdoor recreation very highly. They are drawn to places and communities where many outdoor activities are prevalent—both because they enjoy these activities and because their presence is seen as a signal that the place is amenable to the broader creative lifestyle. The creative-class people in my studies are into a variety of active sports, from traditional ones like bicycling, jogging, and kayaking to newer, more extreme ones, like trail running and snowboarding”.

2)      The health and wellbeing of Dubuque County citizens.  Providing opportunities for individuals to be active is the first step in fighting back the trend of increasing obesity and health care costs. A connected, accessible trail system that allows residents to travel from their homes to long distance trails (like the Heritage Trail) sends a message that access to recreational activities is important for residents of all ages.

3)      Safety.  While it may be possible to put in a cross walk for pedestrians instead of a bridge to save money, forcing individuals to cross 4 lanes of highway creates very unsafe situations.  Highways are designed to move cars from point A to point B very quickly with very few obstructions.  Putting in a heavily used cross walk slows and frustrates that traffic, significantly increasing the likelihood of unfortunate accidents.

In conclusion, the Heritage Trail Bridge is an investment in the future of Dubuque County, and should be viewed as such; an investment in the future health and safety of our community.

Please support the Heritage Trail Bridge Project.

Your Friends in Spandex

A Shout Out from the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board:

Bike to Work Week – May 14-18 (TH Editorial)

Maybe your bike has been sitting in the garage collecting dust since September — or longer. Or maybe you took advantage of the summer-like March weather and got out on two wheels.

Either way, you have a chance to get it in gear with Dubuque’s Bike to Work Week. May 14-18 has been designated Bike to Work Week, with advantages for those who are ready to toss the car keys aside and give pedal power a try for a week.

If you haven’t explored the city’s trails in awhile, you might find you’re able to hop on a path for part of your commute. You can get from the West Side (Asbury and the Northwest Arterial) to downtown (22nd Street) via trail these days, and more paths connect other areas.

Lots of businesses in town support having employees bike to work — as well they should. Workplace wellness efforts lead to less sick time and employees being less stressed. And the ride probably won’t take as long as you think. You don’t have to do it every day. Take a look at your schedule and figure out what days will work best. Then go to THonline.com and sign up.

Even if you don’t plan to ride, Bike to Work Week should be on your radar. There’s no better time for drivers to be more aware of bicycles and the need to share the road. Failure to do so is a mistake of potentially fatal proportions.

Bicyclists have to follow the same rules as drivers of motor vehicles, and they are afforded the same rights to the roadway as motorists. There are far too many drivers in and around Dubuque who see the cyclist as a nuisance who deserves to be honked at, cut off and cursed.

Bike to Work Week is a great time to start making more effort to share the road. Your friends in spandex will thank you.

Editorials reflect the consensus of the Telegraph Herald Editorial Board.  (TH 5-7-12)

Membership Renewal

It is that time of year again when we reach out to our membership and ask you to renew your support for Tri-State Trail Vision. Your continued encouragement, whether monetary, volunteer time, or just simply moral support, helps us to achieve our common goal of protecting and expanding the Tri-State’s trail network.

With your help, in 2011 we:

  • lobbied in support of the development of Catfish Creek Trail
  • assisted the City of Dubuque in receiving an honorable mention by the American League of Bicyclists for their Bicycle Friendly Community designation
  • in conjunction with the Telegraph Herald, organized our second annual Bike to Work Week and had over 150 riders register for the week, committing to ride thousands of miles
  • donated funds to the City of Dubuque to install a bike rack on the Bee Branch development
  • raised funds for bike racks on all city buses

In 2012, we plan to:

  • continue lobbying for the expansion of the Tri-State’s trail network
  • organize our third annual Bike to Work Week
  • work with the City of Dubuque to implement the key findings of the League of American Bicyclists to move Dubuque closer to being a Bicycle Friendly Community

There are many ways for you to get involved and show your support. For instance, ask your employer to participate in Bike to Work Week. Watch for our emails and go to city council, board of supervisors or legislative meetings to support trails. You’re always invited to come to our meetings and provide input. Any support that you can offer is greatly appreciated. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve such successes as the completion of the Heritage Trail pedestrian bridge over Hwy 52 in the fall of 2012.

Thank you for your support of Tri-State Trail Vision. Whether you are a member, made a gift, volunteered, or just got out to enjoy the trails, we couldn’t do this work without you. An email or letter with information will be coming soon to renew your $15 membership. If you have any questions, please contact TSTV Treasurer.

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.

All City Buses Now Equipped with Bike Racks

Parrish Marugg, owner of Bicycle World in Dubuque, spearheaded a campaign in 2010 to raise funds to purchase bike racks for all city buses. Corporate sponsors, such as Bicycle World, American Trust Bank, Tri-Cor Insurance, Dubuque Bank and Trust, Dubuque Bicycle Club, Chain Reaction, joined a number of individual donors. All contributed to match grant funds from the former Keyline Bus system. When the bus system, now called The Jule Transit, switched to newer buses, the bike racks were installed onto the new buses.

Marugg explains that the racks sit in front of the bus engine. Furthermore, he encourages bike riders to watch a short video link illustrating the easy three-step process to secure a bike to the rack. The video also reviews rider etiquette towards the bus driver and other bike patrons, and a link is provided on the TSTV website under the “Rack & Ride” heading.

Thanks goes out to Parrish Marugg for making Dubuque a more bike-friendly place for all of its riders. When the weather or Dubuque’s hilly conditions wear you out, let The Jule whisk you and your bike away.

Bike to Work Week set for May 14-18, 2012

With spring just around the corner, another bicycle season is upon us. To help usher in that season, Tri- State Trail Vision in partnership with the Telegraph Herald are planning our third annual Bike to Work Week. Bike to Work Week, which is actually part of Bike to Work Month, will take place this year from May 14-18, and Bike to Work Day will be Friday, May 18th. These events were first recognized by the United States Congress in 1956 and
have been recognized every year since. Bike to Work Day, Week and Month are about the promotion of cycling and safe bicycling.

Biking to work is a fun and easy way to get daily exercise without having to find time to work out. Over 66% of the adult US population is overweight and 32% of the US is obese, costing our nation $68 billion in health care and personnel costs annually. With the cost of one gallon of gas headed north of $4 and the “cost” of a half hour on the bike at 150 calories, biking to work has never looked so good.

While the word “work” may appear in Bike to Work Week, it doesn’t have to stop there. Bike to Work Week is meant to promote biking for retired individuals headed out for their morning coffee, for those who make a quick stop at the local convenience store, or for children going to school. Most children are driven to school in cars or buses, and one child out of every four is overweight. Biking to school is great way to get kids active. Bike to Work Week might be more appropriately called Bike Week.

This year, as we move closer to Bike to Work Week, look for promotional materials in the Telegraph Herald and other partner businesses. Make sure to sign up for Bike to Work Week at:

www.thonline.com/biketowork or www.trailvision.org.

Help us keep the momentum going by getting out there and going for a ride!

We’re looking for members to serve on the planning committee this year. If
interested, please contact Michael Loebach.

The Mississippi River Bike Trail – The MRT (Part II)

If you missed Part 1, click here.

The MRT Mission Statement, Vision, and Goals are as follows:

Mission: Mississippi River Trail is the leader in connecting people and communities with the river through development and promotion of multi-use pathways and bicycle friendly roads.

Vision: The Mississippi River Trail connects people with the river, communities to each other, and the river and its unique history and culture to the nation and the world.

 Strategic Goals:

1. Organizational Development – MRT, Inc.’s vitality depends upon the growth and expansion of the organization itself. Defining priority actions, augmenting capacity, and improving fundraising are critical to the synergy of our work.

2. Route Development – Impacting the Mississippi River Trail by supporting transportation enhancement through community project planning, organized partner communications, and other means, MRT, Inc. helped bring over $33 million for trail construction projects along the river through earmarks in the SAFETEALU federal funding bill. Continuing the process of refining routes, seeking new trail opportunities, assisting communities with getting federal and state funding, and facilitating community efforts to plan and implement projects are just a few ways MRT, Inc. meets this goal.

3. Encouraging Use – Offering opportunities to plan a trip, learn more about the river environment in different states, engage in activities that support conservation, health and wellness, and economic development, post events on our calendar, attend conferences, participate in making the Mississippi River Trail part of your special experiences, and connecting you with other key trails in America are just a few of the ways we encourage trail use.

Much of the information in this article was taken from the MRT website www.mississippirivertrail.org. The MRT web site is interactive and provides a great deal of information including maps and photos and is continually being improved to be more interactive.

Adapted from MississippiRiverTrail.org by Jim G, TSTV board member and local MRT representative for Dubuque County.

(+) Jim G