BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A kangaroo with a joey in its pouch, Buzz Lightyear, and a mayor dressed as a Viking, a clear nod to Norse gods of cruise lines, all took part in the fifth annual PORT Boo-Athlon fundraiser, which helps fund efforts by the group to continue with recreational trail construction on the city’s west end.
Rachel Benda, the chairman of the PORT group said the community has been the catalyst for the group’s success.
This year featured 128 runners and several bike riders. The runners ran the 5K run along the PORT 1 and 2 Phases and up into the Fort Madison Middle School ending and starting at the Baxter Sports Complex.
Bike riders ran a course from the sports complex up Bluff Road and over to 24th Street, down to Avenue E and east to Lincoln, where they turned around and rode the same course back to 48th where they continued on Bluff Road to Hwy 2 and turned around and rode back to the Baxter complex.
Amanda Alexander, one of the organizers, said 128 runners registered this year which is up about 10 from 2017.
Rachel Benda, the chairman of the PORT Committee, said the city had a lot on the schedule Saturday, so it was great to see an increase in numbers.
“We had an increase over last year, which was great,” Benda said. “Great weather, same great sponsors supporting us which is amazing. This is our fifth year and hopefully next year we’ll run on the third phase, which will be exciting.”
She said the committee will go out for bids for the third phase, which will connect the end of the second phase on 48th Street and run to the pond trail at Fort Madison Community Hospital. Benda said a tentative schedule would have the work being done before winter next year.
“That’s the goal and hopefully that still happens,” she said.
She said the committee has the majority of the money they need to finish the third phase. She said Wellmark donated $100,000 in a grant conditioned upon a match of $100,000, which the committee got from the Southeast Iowa Regional Riverboat Commission. They also got a $280,000 Transportation Alternative Program grant and a $91,000 state trail grant.
The third phase will have some wetlands mitigation and then the committee wants to put in some safety mechanisms at the street crossing at the end of Phase 2 crossing 48th Street. The path also has nothing on 48th Street coming down from Bluff Road to the middle school entrance so they’d like to work with the school on that effort, as well.
“We’d really like to get something along the east side of 48th street because there’s nothing there right now. Hopefully we can work with the school to get something done.”
The first Boo-Athlon held in 2014 netted about $10,000 and Benda said the event is a large revenue generator for the project.
“It’s our biggest fundraiser. We did our Ugly Sweater 5K last year in December and we’ll do that again this year. We didn’t have sponsors for that last year and that was a great fundraiser that we didn’t have sponsors for, and we’ll discuss that but it’s also just a great way to promote health and wellness.”
Benda mentioned, for the first time, a Phase 3A and possible Phase 3B which would possibly connect the living areas by Sunnybrook and connect that area to Fort Madison Community Hospital and create another big loop on the trail.
“That may be in the plans and maybe a portion where we get some support. We’ve had other businesses and large industries come to us and say they want to help so we want to find a way to keep that momentum going,” Benda said.
She said the group is also working with the current effort underway to look at trails, bike trails, and water trails in southeast Iowa, western Illinois, and northeast Missouri. She said it would be wonderful to get the path connected with Montrose, and other areas close to the community.
“We’re not done, we’re thinking that way. We’re also thinking big picture it would great if we go to Montrose and Keokuk could come to Montrose we’d have a whole path there. We could go to (Lake) Geode or we could go Burlington, it’s all still there,” she said.