September 24, 2013

Coon Rapids

Whiterock Conservancy, a Coon Rapids-based non-profit land trust, has embarked on a $4.2 million back-country, 35-mile trails project featuring a rolling layout for mountain bikes.

Conrad Kramer, executive director of Whiterock, said the system would be a major tourism draw for the region.

"It's going to be the best mountain-bike trail anywhere around," Kramer said.

Kramer hopes the project can start in the fall of 2014, giving the trails time to settle over the winter, with an opening in the spring of 2015. The project will retrofit 12 miles of existing trail and add another 23 miles for a mixed-used system - 35 miles for hiking; 28 miles for mountain biking; and 19 miles for horseback riding.

On Monday morning, the Carroll County Supervisors voted 3-2 to contribute $5,000 to a mix of government and private money flowing into the Whiterock project.

"We've done a lot of things for the other small towns around," said Supervisor Marty Danzer.

Kramer has secured $5,000 from the City of Coon Rapids and planned to make a similar ask from the Guthrie County Board of Supervisors today. The Guthrie board previously allocated $1,000.

The goal with the local contributions is to leverage a Vision Iowa grant of $400,000. Those state grants are based on a scored system that takes into account local support.

"This is $5,000 leveraging $400,000," said Supervisor Gene Meiners.

He added, "We are a blessed county. There's a time and place we need to re-invest it back."

Supervisor Dan Nieland supported the $5,000 contribution as well, noting that he has heard from constituents who believe the supervisors are too stingy in backing certain economic-development efforts.

"They think we're a little bit on the ultra-conservative side by not getting this done," Nieland said.

Supervisors Chairman Mark Beardmore and Supervisor Neil Bock opposed the $5,000 in funding for Whiterock.

"Coon Rapids has been on the radar for a long time," Bock said, citing county commitments for the fair, road resurfacing and ambulance services.

"I know we've been good to Coon Rapids," Bock said in making the case for a $1,000 contribution.

Beardmore said he would prefer to see county resources go to existing trails, like the Sauk Rail Trail.

"At this point, I am unable to support the request to any level until we get our Sauk Trail taken care of," Beardmore said.

A Garst Family donation of $2.4 million in land is a centerpiece of the Whiterock trails project.