If I were an Iowa cyclist, I’d plan to be this Saturday in Ankeny, Sheldahl, Slater, Madrid or Woodward — or in all five towns during the day.
Those are the towns along the High Trestle Trail, a 25-mile-long former Union Pacific railbed that links Ankeny, just north of Des Moines, to Woodward to the northwest.
All five towns are planning a grand-opening celebration for the trail from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with food, music and art, rain or shine, with no registration required. Cyclists are encouraged to travel from one community to the next with a “grand celebration passport” to mark their passage.
The distinguishing feature of the trail, and the reason for its name, is a 13-story-tall, half-mile-long high trestle bridge over the Des Moines River Valley between Madrid and Woodward.
The High Trestle Trail is the latest addition to an estimated 1,200 miles of trails throughout the Hawkeye State, used for such pursuits as bicycling, walking, in-line skating, etc.
Because I can’t be in Iowa, I’ll have to settle for a virtual tour of the trail, compressed into just over two minutes, in the video below.
The High Trestle Trail is built on the railbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad Co., laid down in 1881. The Union Pacific Railroad sold the corridor in 2005 to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, which worked with the five towns and four counties — Polk, Story, Dallas and Boone — through which the trail passes to make the iconic bridge a reality.
The most distinctive art elements on the bridge are the 41 rusty “frames,” designed to look like the timber supports inside a mine, reflecting the area’s coal-mining industry. At either end of the bridge are 42-foot limestone towers, which are veined with black ceramic strips to look like coal seams.
The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the nine jurisdictions that the trail passes through have been working to establish a trail authority that will maintain and manage the High Trestle Trail. The authority is expected to be fully functional by the first quarter of 2012.
So, the next time I’m in Iowa …