Later renamed the Oralabor Gateway Trail, the Neal Smith to Ankeny Trail connects the City of Ankeny to the existing Neal Smith Trail, south of Saylorville Lake in Polk County, Iowa. The trail consists of 2.77 miles of 10-foot wide portland cement concrete that travels through rural, agricultural land as well as city parks and residential neighborhoods. A restroom facility within Glenbrooke Park in the City of Ankeny was also constructed to serve the trail. Completed over the course of two construction seasons, the trail connects to a 600-mile trail transportation network.
A portion of the trail was built within the Des Moines River floodplain, and the construction permit required that no fill be placed. The alignment and profile needed to be designed to meet this requirement which led to challenging drainage solutions. Impacts to natural surroundings were minimized, such that tree impacts were selective and the design was carefully considered to minimize impact while achieving proper design standards.
Alignment of the trail also took into consideration existing wetlands. Although trail design minimized impacts, some wetlands could not be avoided. The project included construction of approximately 1/3-acre of new wetlands to mitigate for impacted wetland areas.
While the majority of the trail was constructed on fairly level terrain, a section of the trail along NW 26th Street required steeper grades, up to five percent. Trail design of this section accounted for user accessibility while reducing large earthwork cuts and fills and accommodation of existing drainage patterns.
The trail crosses NW 26th Street at its intersection with Highway 415. It was designed to accommodate future signalization at the intersection with trail user safety in mind.
The trail was constructed entirely within existing right-of-way and permanent easements. At times, it became challenging to keep construction limits within boundaries established in the late 1990’s. Alignment was carefully considered to accomplish this.
The curvature of the horizontal alignment adds to the user experience of the trail. However, at times, the steepness of the profile created challenges for paving the trail. The complexity of the trail and quality of construction garnered an Iowa’s Best Recreational Trail PCC Paving Project award from the Iowa Concrete Paving Association in 2011.