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Decades-Long Partnership Spearheads Multiple Trail Projects

Des Moines Area Trail map

Chichaqua Valley Trail spans over 30 miles from Baxter to just south of the east mixmaster in Des Moines.

Designed to accommodate bicyclists, runners, hikers, and cross-country skiers, the Chichaqua Valley Trail spans over 30 miles from Baxter to just south of the east mixmaster in Des Moines. Built almost entirely on a former railroad line, this expansive trail system is jointly managed by the Polk County and Jasper County Conservation Departments. The Snyder & Associates team has worked side-by-side with these organizations, and others, to create new and rehabilitate existing trail components over many years.

Major Flood Event Decimates Trail Sections

In 2011, major floods destroyed twelve different sections along the trail. Some of the washed-out areas supporting the trail had been constructed as far back as the 1880s when the original rail line was installed. Our team stepped in to orchestrate repair solutions to return the trail to a useable condition. This project was made more complicated by the need for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to cover the cost of repairs and the challenge of working with two counties.

Additionally, the discovery of deeper structural damage required our team to adjust on the fly to develop new solutions. At several locations, metal plates were added to create more secure and safer transitions between the repaired trail section and bridges.

Bondurant Rail Corridor Transformed into Regional Trailhead

Water bottle filling station

The water bottle filling station located by the trailhead shelter provides a much-needed amenity for trail users.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding projects our team has tackled around the Chichaqua Valley Trail was the Master Plan design created to bring a regional trailhead park to the heart of Bondurant. The trailhead would be located on an abandoned railroad corridor between Main and Grant Streets on a site that was formerly a part of the historic Chicago Great Western Railway operations. City and county officials, and other stakeholders, envisioned the proposed trailhead acting as the centerpiece of the Eastern Polk County trail system. At the same time, they tasked our team with developing a plan that would pay homage to the rail line’s presence in the area and the history of Bondurant.

The Snyder & Associates team conducted several public input meetings to gather feedback about what the residents of the area would like to see in the new location. Then, after further meetings with officials, our designers prepared the Bondurant Trailhead Master Plan and a comprehensive estimate of construction costs.

The proposed Master Plan incorporates a 1,440 square foot open-air shelter with restrooms and water bottle fill stations. Also, seating areas, a splash ground, trail hub kiosk, and interpretive signage were included. The shelter is a replica of the original Bondurant train station that served train passengers from 1883 to 1962. Entryway features and screening walls were based on the railroad theme and give the site a unique flare that references the location and Bondurant’s past.

Based on our team’s Master Plan, the City of Bondurant immediately installed the shelter, trail section, and paved seating areas. The 0.7-acre Bondurant Regional Trailhead Park officially opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in 2013. In the intervening years, most of the other amenities have been added to the site as funds became available.

Two Trail Extensions Pave the Way for Future Trail Loop

Fresh Pavement constructed for Chichaqua Valley Trail

A “fresh” trail section meanders its way into the Des Moines metro area.

Piggybacking on the success of the Bondurant Trailhead project, our team was again enlisted by Polk County officials to create a plan for extending the Chichaqua Valley Trail from a location west of Bondurant, continuing to the southwest where it would intersect with the Gay Lea Wilson Trail. This new trail section required the rehabilitation of two former railroad bridges near the community of Berwick.

Our team then designed a second trail alignment that carried the Chichaqua Valley Trail into the Norwoodville neighborhood in the northeast corner of the Des Moines metro. Currently, the trail ends at Broadway Avenue. However, an extensive reconstruction plan is currently being developed by our team to expand the Broadway Avenue corridor, including a plan to provide a trail segment that will intersect with the Chichaqua Valley Trail and connect with the Gay Lea Wilson Trail to the east, creating an entirely new trail loop for users.

While the Chichaqua Valley Trail has evolved over the past several decades, the Snyder & Associates-led flood recovery efforts and creation of the Bondurant Trailhead have been two of the most transformative projects impacting the future of the trail. As trail systems continue to expand to meet the recreational and multimodal needs of communities, our comprehensive team of professionals stands ready to provide our first-rate design and planning services.