BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – A cavalcade of costumed runners showed up a on chilly Saturday morning to help raise funds for the continued progress of the city’s P.O.R.T. trails.
The annual Spooktacular Boo-Athlon run, typically on a fall Saturday at the Baxter Sports Complex helps raise funds for the Promote Our Recreational Trails organizations efforts.
A lot of the grants committed on a local, regional, state and even federal level require matching funds and the efforts from events like Saturday’s Boo-Athlon help keep revenues flowing for one of the largest coordinator fundraisers in the city’s history.
Angie Budnik, a committee member with PORT said it’s been a very good year for the organization.
“Our big project this year is to do the connection between the (Baxter) Sports Complex and the hospital and that will be done hopefully by the summer of 2020,” she said.
“That will be the third of the first three phases we wanted to do.”
The group also got a big boost in August when the Great River Health System-Fort Madison Community Hospital Community Foundation earmarked funds to help build a recreational trail up 15th Street in Fort Madison to Rodeo Park.
The Foundation presented their proposal for the north/south path in July. The exact path of the trail that goes up 15th Street will be determined by engineers, but $1.5 million was earmarked for the project and the foundation hoped to have work done by September of 2020.
The other announcement for the trail organization was a Phase 4, which will add needed trail pathways on 48th Street from the sports complex north to Bluff Road.
“Our goal is so that people won’t have to switch sides of the road if they don’t want to until they get to the corner by the middle school. So we’re basically trying to connect it all and finish it all off,” she said.
“That’s always been our goal – to connect the whole town with trails and so this just gets us one step and closer. We’re proposing to get Rodeo connected to Bluff and then hopefully P.O.R.T. can take over whatever to make a large circle, but we haven’t made that official decision yet.”
The 3rd Phase connecting the second phase at the Sports Complex west to the hospital is an expensive project due to some wetlands mitigation and having to raise the trail.
It wasn’t all good news for the P.O.R.T. trail this year when City Public Works Director Larry Driscoll, announced his resignation with plans to move to the Cedar Rapids area. Driscoll was instrumental in coordinating the P.O.R.T. committee’s work with the city.
“Larry has been instrumental and has been our champion and biggest advocate with the city. He’s made things happen and we really appreciated that effort,” Budnik said.
Budnik said the P.O.R.T. group has been very fortunate with grants this year and in the past with federal trails grants and Wellmark grants. A 2018 federal Dept. of Transportation grant, coupled with a Wellmark grant, a Transportation Alternative Program grant and funds from the Southeast Iowa Regional Riverboat Commission have pushed the group over the $500,000 needed for the Phase 3 project.
As for the annual fall run, Budnik said turnout was good despite other holiday activities. The event included a run for kids, the 5K run and a 10K bicycle ride.
“The turnout today was pretty good. You never know because runs are hit and miss these days. It used to be that runs that were only thing people had to do,” Budnik said.
“And when we started this six years ago there wasn’t a whole lot going on around Halloween and now it’s a pretty popular time of the year.”
She said they had about 125 people register for the run and a lot signed up on Saturday morning.