The Linn County Trails Association is a non-profit, volunteer organization that has been in existence since 1990*. Like many great volunteer groups, LCTA was started by loyal volunteers, while chatting around a kitchen table. Their objective was to build a trail along the Old Interurban Line that stretched 12 miles from Bever Park in Cedar Rapids to Mt Vernon. Years of investigation and lobbying, conversations and debates with non-trail supporters drained an enthusiastic group of people. In 1993, in an effort to regroup, a meeting took place around another kitchen table and it was decided that LCTA would expand their board (modeled after a group in Lincoln Nebraska) and turn their energy to creating a paved trail in the city. This was facilitated and guided by the Metro Area Trails System Committee (MATS). This committee, sanctioned by the City of Cedar Rapids, provided a guide for trails in the Metro Area. LCTA expanded their board and general membership, and in 1993 started to meet the second Monday of the month.
Board expansion, decentralization, stability in meeting place and time and an attainable goal help create a great organization! Our first major project was to complete the Cedar Lake Phase of the 12 mile Cedar River Trail. The CRT would reach from the Cedar Valley Nature Trail to the Hoover Trail and be a part of the American Discovery Trail. In August 1997, after years of lobbying and fundraising, the Cedar Lake Phase of the Trail was opened. It was a great day for trail supporters. LCTA had raised close to $100,000 and helped with the match for the first phase. LCTA continues to work with Cedar Rapids to finish the CRT and add neighborhood spurs to this backbone trail. LCTA has provided a volunteer Trail Coordinator to help with this process. The Trail Coordinator spends hours helping to research grant deadlines, collecting information for the city engineers and making sure that trails get built in a timely fashion. We have also worked with the city to formulate “rules” of the road to encourage polite trail use. During 2002, new miles have been added to the CRT, extending close to Collins Rd.
In 1997, a new trail project, the Grant Wood Trail, was launched by a quiet little trails group in Jones County, the Grant Wood Trail Association. They asked LCTA if we were interested in old railroad property in Linn County that would extend from Marion to Martelle and meet up with their trail from Martelle to Oxford Junction. Always ready for a challenge, we investigated the property and saw the potential for a great recreational resource! We jumped in boldly and bought up as much property as possible. The first Linn County segment of the GWT, 3.25 miles, was opened in 1999. An incredible amount of work had gone into this project, with hours of research in county offices, negotiation of land purchase and easements, and fundraising for land purchase and development. Much of the actual trail work has been done by LCTA members and we are grateful for their help!
Since 1999 several more miles of the GWT has opened for hiking, running and mountain biking. In 2002 LCTA placed a refurbished flatcar bridge to span a creek close to Paralta. This was a huge undertaking, yet with volunteer help and businesses donating time and materials, the costs were kept to a minimum. The GWT from Creekside Rd to Springville Rd has been graded and is now open for business. LCTA continues to work with surrounding cities and the county to promote trail use and development. With the Linn County Conservation Department, we helped start the Trail Host program on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. We have planned trail hikes, bike rides and Freedom Festival activities on local trails. We raise funds for trail development and have helped to meet the funding match for projects in Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha and Linn County. We look forward to continuing cooperative relationships with the cities and Linn County, to help make Eastern Iowa a trail destination!* Years prior a Rails to Trails group was very active and created the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.
- LCTA spearheaded the planning and development of the Cedar River Trail by lobbying the Cedar Rapids to apply for state and federal funds to build it, and by agreeing to pay 70% ($70,000) of the local match for the first segment. Currently it spans over 7 miles from Boyson Road (where it meets the Cedar Valley Nature Trail) to Ely Road (south of Highway 30) LCTA paid one half of Hiawatha’s local match on the segment from Blairs Ferry North to Cedar Valley Nature Trail and $35,000 towards the segment just south of HWY 30 to just north of Ely.
- LCTA has purchased properties related to the Grant Wood Trail in Linn County and are developing it with LCTA funds. About nine miles have been purchased, with six of them now open to the public. Eventually the Grant Wood Trail will meet up with a segment being developed by the Grant Wood Trail Association in Jones county at Martelle. Their segment will stretch to Olin in Jones County.
- LCTA raised $96,250 to match a grant obtained by the Linn County Conservation Commission to pave 7 miles of the Cedar Valley Nature Trail from County Home Road to Schultz Road.
- LCTA purchased abandoned railroad right-of-way from CN Railroad, Cedar Rapids graded and applied crushed limestone and paved the trail. LCTA contributed $55,ooo including a donation of $15,000 from Rockwell Collins, Cedar Rapids contributed $16,000 towards asphalt plus provided labor and equipment to complete the project.
- An LCTA Board of Directors member is assigned to the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) committee that coordinates trail development activity and evaluates the priorities of various trail projects within the metropolitan area that are eligible for federal funding.
- LCTA promotes the growth of trails in the Linn County area and has worked with government officials to develop a long-range trail development plan that is now being implemented.