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Hike & Bike Trail System Sought to Link Recreation Hubs around Webster County & Fort Dodge

In line with the city’s strategic goals, Fort Dodge identified the creation and adoption of a “trails plan” as a primary objective. This plan would build on the city’s vision of becoming a recreation destination by expanding its trail system. The purpose of a trails plan is to offer a guide for creating a community where biking and walking are both a safe and viable mode of transportation. The City of Fort Dodge was awarded the Matching Assets to Community Health (MATCH) grant from The Wellmark Foundation in 2016 to assist in creating this comprehensive trails plan. In partnership with Webster County and the Trails Advisory Board, the city hired Snyder & Associates to develop the plan for the Fort Dodge/Webster County Trail System.

Man and women discuss proposed bike routes.

Prairie Rivers Trail Event Open House

The resultant Hike & Bike WC Master Plan identifies trail priorities around the Fort Dodge area. Some of the research for this plan relied upon public engagement efforts that were conducted for numerous other planning efforts and surveys, including the city’s most recent comprehensive plan (Re-Envision 2030), the Webster County Comprehensive Development Plan, and the Mid-Iowa Development Association (MIDAS) Council of Governments 2015 survey. Additionally, a separate planning survey garnered over 800 responses from the public.

After parsing the survey data, the planning team guided the Hike & Bike WC Project Management Team and Trails Advisory Board through the feedback and input. Both of these groups included local hiking and biking stakeholders that were instrumental in assisting the planning team.

Goal Setting Drives Outcomes

The planning team also used the gathered data to create the four main goals that the plan aimed to achieve. These goals include:

  1. Providing a complete bicycle and pedestrian system with connections to various destinations.
  2. Increasing biking and walking trips for health, recreation, and transportation.
    • Encourage biking and walking through the use of fun events, celebrations, and incentives
  3. Ensuring safety for all when biking and walking.
    • Increase public knowledge of trail etiquette, bicycle maintenance, and bicycle safety
    • Maintain trail and bicycle routes in good condition
    • Ensure equitable laws and enforcement
  4. Developing a marketing plan to promote the Prairie Rivers Trail System.
    • Increase local and regional knowledge and awareness of the Prairie Rivers Trail System facilities and brand
    • Develop partnerships and utilize available resources to promote trail use
    • Make information easily accessible
    • Increase public support for trail and bicycle facility development, education programs and use throughout the county

The Hike & Bike WC Master Plan goes on to expand on other data collected. This includes consideration of the existing trail conditions and destination hubs, marketing opportunities to promote the trails system, and best practices for implementation of the plan. Additionally, the plan provides maps showing existing trails and the proposed trail/bike networks prioritized as high, medium, and low.

The Hike & Bike WC Master Plan is intended to present a 20-year vision for a fully-developed trail and bikeway system throughout Webster County that connects local and regional destinations. The approval and adoption of this document as a component of the city’s and county’s comprehensive plan indicate that the proposed bikeway system is generally accepted as the best practice standard for improving biking and walking in the city and county. It would also allow the government bodies to make staff-level decisions and appointed or elected body-level decisions in support of the goals, strategies, and recommendations of the plan.

One-Time & On-Going Funding Opportunities Pinpointed

Identifying funding sources for a project of this scale is an absolute necessity. Having a comprehensive plan in place shows the commitment of the community when applying for grants and other funding avenues. Beyond grants, this plan also explores donation possibilities from numerous entities, as well as private and public sources. A carefully assembled matrix included in the Master plan provides all relevant information for each of the funding opportunities.

Moving forward, the Hike & Bike WC Master Plan created by Snyder & Associates will guide the City of Fort Dodge and Webster County in building the trail network envisioned in the plan. Their objective of becoming a recreation destination is well underway.