BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The recreation trail that is gradually starting to connect the city of Fort Madison, saw a new segment open Sunday from 48th Street to the hospital.
The Promote Outdoor Recreational Trails committee now chaired by Larry Smith, officially opened the new section of 10-foot concrete pathway from 48th Street across from Avenue L, west to the Southeast Iowa Regional Medical Center’s Fort Madison campus.
The trail runs out to the hospital campus where it loops around the pond on the property and back. It’s now part of about 10 miles of pathways that run along the east and south borders of the Fort Madison Middle School, in addition to the rec trail that starts at the northwest corner of the Fort Madison High School and runs along the back side of the baseball and softball fields all the way to 18th Street.
The trail crosses there and then heads east down Avenue B to 15th Street where it turns north and runs up to Rodeo Park.
Smith said there’s more work to be done.
“We’ve applied for state rec trail grants, REAP grants, and we’ve been turned down on a couple. We’ve got one more that’s still active that’s due at the end of December.”
The next section of trail being proposed will run from the Phase 3 section that just opened on 48th Street to the Phase II section north on 48th Street to the trail head at the middle school on the Baxter Sports Complex side of 48th Street.
Smith said that portion will cost about $500,000.
The PORT committee got a substantial contribution from the Great River Health System-Fort Madison Community Hospital Community Foundation of about $3 million. Those funds paid for the trail up to Rodeo Park from behind the high school. It also has provided additional funding for future amenities and some match money for future grants.
The PORT committee started working on building the trail network about eight years ago under the leadership of Rachel Benda. She did that for the first seven years, before Smith took over as chairman.
He said eventually the trail could go all the way down Avenue A with a 10-foot trail off the current trail head on Bluff Road and hook up with 24th Street which already has dedicated bike lanes assigned there. That would go south to Bus. 61 where the path could tie in with 10-foot sidewalks, that are already in place in the 2nd to 10th street completed highway reconstruction.
He said that path could then go east and tie into the new marina and have a trail that runs from the hospital to the east edge of town and from Rodeo park to Bus. 61.
This week crews could be installing a new bridge on Avenue B that crosses a creek bed there.
“Essentially now, when the bridge is in, we’ll have from the hospital to rodeo and that’s five miles each way, which is a 10-mile loop and that doesn’t include the paved paths through Rodeo Park,” Smith said.
During the dedication, Smith thanked Jones Contracting for their work in building the path, as well as the City of Fort Madison.
Fort Madison Mayor Matt Mohrfeld was on hand making the 5K run at the dedication which took place during the group’s annual Ugly Sweater 5K run on Sunday afternoon at the complex.