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Polk County Public Works
Client Type
Project Type
Services Provided
  • Bicycle & Pedestrian Planning
  • Comprehensive & Land Use Planning
  • Environmental Studies
  • GIS Mapping & Analysis
  • Master Planning
  • Park Design & Planning
  • Public Engagement & Meeting Facilitation
  • Rural & Urban Stormwater Management Planning
  • Trail Design & Planning

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Greenway Master Plan Benefits

Lower Fourmile Creek is located in the bottom one-third of the Fourmile Creek Watershed, which encompasses 76,000 acres of south-central Iowa. The Lower Fourmile Creek Greenway Master Plan is one of the first steps to implementing the vision set forth by the Fourmile Creek Watershed Management Plan. It addresses critical greenway components and identifies the potential recreational and educational amenities a greenway system can provide.

Greenways are an integral community component with numerous benefits:

  • Encouraging multimodal transportation and connecting neighborhoods with nearby destinations
  • Providing communities with access to recreational resources and the natural environment
  • Protecting and enhancing water quality, while reducing flood risk and damage

Identifying Master Plan Objectives

Thoughtful consideration of multiple elements and stakeholder input are essential to plan and implement a greenway system. During a public open house, we gathered community input about the future of Fourmile Creek, which helped shape the plan’s objectives.

Greenway Master Plan Objectives

  • Flood management and water quality
  • Native habitat protection and management
  • Define greenway
  • Make connections
  • Public access and service
  • Education
  • Economic development
  • Implementable steps

Master Plan Discovery

Representatives from Polk County, the Polk County Conservation Board, Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, the City of Des Moines, and the City of Pleasant Hill formed a stakeholder committee that provided guidance throughout the master planning process.

A site analysis and needs assessment helped guide the decision-making process for greenway requirements and boundaries. It included an inventory of existing site conditions, along with a review of the past and current planning efforts of nearby communities. This helped identify how a greenway system can help guide commercial growth and serve as an asset for local businesses while achieving the main objectives of flood hazard mitigation and water quality improvement.

Site Analysis Highlights

  • Flood management: The top concern of local property owners and citizens is flooding impacts. As a result, property acquisitions in flood-prone areas and flood management strategies will be considered.
  • Water quality: The poor water quality of Fourmile Creek needs to be addressed to improve aquatic habitat and protect human health.
  • Connectivity & Access: A multipurpose corridor with diverse trails and recreational amenities is desired to encourage economic growth and healthy lifestyles while improving community livability.
  • Education: Communication and education are critical to greenway success.
  • Habitat Management: Native habitat re-establishment and restoration could have numerous benefits.
  • Economic Resiliency: Improvements to key economic development areas should promote desired, sustainable growth.

Master Plan Exploration

Based on the information gathered during the needs analysis and inventory stage, four categories of potential improvements and master plan components were identified. Each category contains specific tasks and initiatives.

  • Natural Resources
    • Habitat restoration and establishment
    • Water quality improvements
    • Educational opportunities
  • Trail Improvements
  • Economic Resiliency
    • Flood management
    • Recreational improvements
    • Multimodal transportation
    • Policy and zoning provisions
    • Re-envision local food
  • Design Standards
    • Sustainable practices
    • Style guide and corridor branding

A Blue Print for the Future

Adoption of the Lower Fourmile Creek Greenway Master Plan was the first step to implementation. The City of Pleasant Hill, City of Des Moines, and the Polk County Conservation Board have adopted the plan. However, full implementation is part of a long-term strategy that may take decades to accomplish. Key steps and responsibilities of this ongoing process are divided into three parts:

Master Plan Development & Property Acquisitions

Phasing and prioritization of various greenway segments and the ultimate build out. The plan outlines 46-miles of potential trail improvements and 1,696-acres of land set aside for public use and flood hazard mitigation. It also describes methodology and guidelines for property acquisition, design, engineering, and construction priorities.

Maintenance & Operations

An overview of administrative, maintenance, and coordination tools. To best implement the greenway, all project partners will be responsible for some level of services, resources, and funding.

Action Plan

This section provides a summary of the overall plan recommendations and highlights the key implementing partners, potential funding strategies, action type, and timeline for completion.

GIS Innovations

Due to the scale and complex amount of GIS (Geographic Information System) based data compiled from previous studies and for this master planning process, we used a web-based Esri Story Map application to communicate master plan details. This user-friendly application allowed us to combine detailed mapping with images, narrative text, video, and web links to engage users on multiple levels.

The story map is accessible to the public from multiple websites, including local city and county websites. However, the primary location is the Fourmile Creek Watershed website managed by Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, the greenway coordinator. The map will be updated as progress is made in the greenway corridor, providing an ongoing resource of information that’s easily accessible to the public.

Additional Resources

Projects leading up to the creation of the Greenway Master Plan included:

  • Formation of the Fourmile Creek Watershed Management Authority in 2012 due to a history of flooding in the area and water quality concerns.
  • The Fourmile Creek Watershed Study conducted between 2011 and 2013, which identifies guiding principles, stormwater management goals, and five components of a stormwater management plan with strategies.
  • The Fourmile Creek Watershed Management Plan adopted in 2015, which identifies watershed improvement goals and provides a prioritized implementation plan, budget, and funding opportunities. The third plan goal is the adoption of a greenway system.