I hopped on my bicycle this morning with the idea of taking the Raccoon River Valley Trail (RRVT) to Perry, a town located about 25 miles south and east of Jefferson. Perry’s the halfway point to suburban Des Moines and the largest town on the trail.  That makes it a worthwhile destination.

The missing link (yellow) will connect the RRVT (west) to the High Trestle Trail (east).

These sort of decisions are always subject to change, but I felt pretty good today.  As I pedaled south and then east, I thought about how blessed and lucky I am to live alongside one of America’s great rail trails.  The RRVT was a big part of the reason we chose to buy a home in Jefferson.  We haven’t been disappointed.  It’s a special trail, mostly because it is loved and well supported not only by the communities that line it, but statewide.  I know there are a lot of fabulous trails in other parts of the country, but there’s only one Iowa.  This sort of thing seems to matter to people here more than it does most of the other places I’ve been.

And so I wasn’t really all that surprised to hear yesterday that Iowa health insurer Wellmark just wrote a $90,000 check to Let’s Connect, the local group that is working to build a nine mile connector from the RRVT in Perry to the High Trestle Trail in Woodward.  This process has been driven for the last year by Perry-based Raccoon Valley Bank.  They’ve also made significant contributions to the connector.   In fact, over 1/3 of the $5 million dollar total price tag has already been raised.  This is going to happen.

High Trestle Bridge over the Des Moines River between Woodward and Madrid Iowa

When it does, two of America’s premiere rail trails will be connected.  It will be possible to ride from our home in Jefferson all the way to Ankeny (120+mile round trip) on the north side of Des Moines via the iconic High Trestle Bridge without ever getting on a road.   We can also continue east on the Heart of Iowa trail to Marshalltown.  Our options, already many and varied, are about to get a whole lot better.

There are a few longer trails than the combined RRVT and HTT trails, but in my opinion none better.  In my work as an advocate for bicycles as transportation, I always come back to connectivity.  Trails may be fine recreational assets, but they can serve double duty as transportation resources…highways if you will…when they connect us to other places.  The thing that’s so unique about our network is that it looks a lot more like a grid than a single line.  That’s connectivity and it will lead to all sorts of serendipity for the region and the people who call it home.

I want to personally thank Wellmark and Raccoon Valley Bank and all the other visionary people and organizations who are working to build out this world class network of trails.  The connectivity they’re making possible will lead to all sorts of serendipity for our region.  I imagine a future where companies will locate along trails like this and people will commute from the small towns that line these trails to work, schools and other places.

Thank you, one and all.