August Update

This summer has been humid, but that hasn’t stopped Iowans from paddling their favorite rivers. We have seen more interest in the Cedar Valley Water Trails website this summer than at any other point since our initial launch two years ago! The Black Hawk County Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) committee met last week to review this year’s grant applications to improve area parks (including a potential new river access), and the Water Trails Master Plan contract has been extended one year with a final State Water Trails designation ceremony planned in summer 2021.

Reaching new heights

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become a new normal for staying up to date on current events and local happenings. Often this means fewer people visit an organization’s website when they already receive updates in their news feed. However, the Cedar Valley Water Trails website has reached new heights with 687 views last month. This is only 70 views shy of the all-time record set in June 2018 when the website first launched and public meetings were being held in Waterloo and Cedar Falls.

September saw the most website views last year. Is there enough momentum this year to break the all-time monthly record?

A new river access

Four jurisdictions within Black Hawk County are submitting grant applications for Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) funds this year through the Iowa DNR: Black Hawk County Conservation, Evansale, Elk Run Heights, and Dunkerton.

City officials in Evansdale hope to receive a grant to help fund construction of a new access along the Cedar River Water Trail. The proposed access area (pictured above) is along River Road and is currently used by locals as an unofficial access and fishing area. If awarded grant funding, construction is expected to begin as early as next spring. This would create a new access between Deerwood Park and Gilbertville, giving paddlers more options and improving emergency response.

The new river access will use the design developed for the Water Trails Master Plan. The Master Plan includes conceptual designs for five new access areas along the Cedar River. The development of the new access in Evansdale shows how local intergovernmental planning efforts can help cities and improve  quality-of-life in the community.

Other projects for REAP grant consideration include a septic tank system at Hickory Hills Park, a shelter and restrooms at Mayor’s Park in Elk Run Heights, and two shelters along the Riverwalk Trail in Dunkerton.

Whose sign is it anyway?

The complexity of creating a signage plan for 12 different jurisdictions cannot be overstated. This is especially true if development of a new river access will require future changes to signs at other access areas — and in other jurisdictions. INRCOG staff have been working with the Iowa DNR to determine the immediate and long-term responsibilities for each jurisdiction involved. These responsibilities will be described in detail in the sponsor agreements to be developed this fall. Signs are expected to be ordered by next spring with an official State-designated Water Trail dedication event to be held in summer 2021.

Picture above is the draft sign plan for a proposed new access at Pioneer Park in Waterloo. If constructed, this will be the first official access downstream from the Waterloo dam, functionally adding over one mile to the water trail. Development of this access wouldn’t affect nearby signs much; however, the planned marina development upstream of the dam would require changing all the Waterloo Boathouse signs from Access 164 to 164B (formerly 163) and assigning 164A to the new marina access. The access at Pioneer Park, if developed, will then become Access 163. Dizzying? We might need to spend a day on the river to unwind!

(For the record, the 12 jurisdictions are Black Hawk County, the County Conservation Board, Iowa DOT, Iowa DNR (George Wyth State Park), Janesville, Cedar Falls, Hudson, Waterloo, Evansdale, Gilbertville, Grundy County, and potentially Bremer County.)

April Update

In uncharted waters, it is extra important to proceed cautiously and carefully.  Please practice social distancing and give fellow paddlers and boaters extra space when loading and unloading.

A few developments have been underway since the last update:

On April 16, the Black Hawk County Conservation Board approved their role as the sponsor for the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek Water Trails in Black Hawk County.  Once all planning is complete, County Conservation staff will coordinate with the Iowa DNR on a variety of water trails maintenance responsibilities.

The water trails website has a fresh new look.  The menu now appears on the left side of the computer screen to make navigating the Water Trails Master Plan much simpler.  What do you think?

In Hudson, the City constructed a new canoe/kayak ramp at Franck Park (pictured above).  This replaces the steep, narrow path walking path closer to the highway.  While the new ramp looks very nice and welcoming, this section of Black Hawk Creek has a development classification of “wilderness” and is the most challenging segment pending State-designation in the county.  Proceed with caution.

Mile markers along the Cedar River have been recalculated by DNR staff from the Iowa River to Mitchell County.  This means many of the numbers you’ve seen on maps will change.  For example, Access 158 will now be Access 159.  These changes ensure that mile numbers are continuous and accurate from county to county.

Updates will be more frequent in the coming months as the final planning efforts ramp up!  The Master Plan is expected to be completed by June 30, and several pages on this website will also be updated over the coming weeks.

November Update

It has been a long time coming, but the final steps of the Water Trails Master Plan are in motion.  The plan itself is nearly complete, and the Recommendations section for three jurisdictions are already published online: Black Hawk County, Cedar Falls, and Evansdale.  The water trails coordinator is now presenting the recommendations to elected officials in each jurisdiction for their review and final comments.  Once complete, City and County staff from every jurisdiction will meet to develop the Sponsor Agreements which is the final step needed to complete the planning process and designate the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek as State Water Trails.  A dedication event will follow, likely in summer of 2020.

In social media news, 286 people are now following the Cedar Valley Water Trails Facebook page!  Are you one of them?  Give us a like!  The page shares more frequent updates on Iowa water trails, developments in the Cedar Valley, local river conditions, and more.  Can we get 300 “likes” before the new year?

July Update

It’s been a few months since the last update, but planning efforts are still alive and well for the Water Trails Master Plan.  Most recently, we’ve been working on signage plans for 22 accesses along the Cedar River.  These include directional signs on roadways, dam warning signs, and signage to be installed at each entry point.  This process requires much coordination between each City, Black Hawk County, the Iowa DNR, and the Iowa DOT.

For Black Hawk County residents, these signs may be the most visible outcome of the Master Plan process.  All 22 signage plans are currently under review.  The next steps are to meet with elected officials to review the Master Plan and identify maintenance responsibilities for each government entity.  The remaining chapters of the plan will be uploaded in the next few weeks (in draft form).  These will include the signage plans and proposed improvements to each access along the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek.  Check back next month for more information, and stay safe out there!

March Update

After much review, we have begun uploading the Water Trails Master Plan in it’s final draft version.  The plan can be viewed in your current browser on the Master Plan page, and will also be available in PDF format to download.  Please be patient as we publish each section, one part at a time.

January Update

Here is a quick update on the Water Trails Master Plan.  Since this summer’s public meetings, lead staff have been busy reviewing public comments and meeting with park managers across Black Hawk County.  Recommendations for the Master Plan are currently being finalized for over two dozen river accesses throughout the county.

Altogether, 94 individuals provided input on the Master Plan.  This information has been used to help shape the plan document and recommendations.  The full document will be uploaded to this website shortly, including the results of the public input meeting surveys.

Also in January is Paddle Fest 2019 in Waverly!  The event will be held Saturday, January 26 and will feature presentations on several different paddling-related topics including the Black Hawk County Water Trails Master Plan.  Click here to visit the Paddle Fest website and learn more about this year’s presenters.

 

 

Be Social!

Paddling is a great way to get away from it all and unplug.  It’s also a great way to interact and socialize with friends.

When you’re not out on the rivers, plug in!  And “Like” our new Facebook page www.facebook.com/cedarvalleywatertrails.  The page will feature highlights from the Master Plan, updates on new development along the rivers, and snazzy graphics showing the planned improvements at each river access.  Click, react, comment, and share.  Stay tuned for more!

CedarValleyWaterTrails.com is Here

It’s official.  The website cedarvalleywatertrails.com is now live!  Please click around the new site for more information about the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek water trails.  Two public meetings will be held this summer to help shape the Black Hawk County Water Trails Master Plan.  They will be held July 31 in Cedar Falls and August 2 in Waterloo, which is the week leading up to Iowa Irish Fest.

Please familiarize yourself with the informational handouts available on this website.  The handouts address common questions related to paddling rules and the rivers in general.  Printed copies will be available at the public meetings.  Hope to see you there!

The Black Hawk County Water Trails Master Plan is Underway

A local planning effort is underway to improve recreational activities, particularly kayaking and canoeing, along the Cedar River and Black Hawk Creek in Black Hawk County.  This is a joint effort between several public agencies and community stakeholders:

  • Iowa DNR, River Programs Team
  • Iowa DNR, George Wyth Memorial State Park
  • Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments (INRCOG)
  • Black Hawk County Conservation Board
  • Black Hawk County Soil and Water Conservation District
  • City of Waterloo
  • City of Cedar Falls
  • City of Evansdale
  • City of Hudson
  • City of Janesville
  • City of Gilbertville
  • City of La Porte City
  • Black Hawk Creek Water and Soil Coalition
  • Cedar Falls Tourism and Visitors Bureau
  • Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
  • Ritland+Kuiper Landscape Architects
  • UNI Department of Earth Science

This effort includes development of a Water Trails Master Plan for the county.  The Master Plan will describe planned improvements to river accesses, particularly improvements related to river launch design, parking, water quality, wildlife habitat, and quality of life.   The Black Hawk County plan will also include unique opportunities for bicyclists interested in pedal-paddle excursions using the area’s extensive paved trails network.

More information on the statewide Water Trails program is on the Iowa DNR website.