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.)