Prairie Rivers Trail Expansion, Oleson Park Celebration is tonight

An event to celebrate the progress of the the Prairie Rivers Trail expansion and the Oleson Park Master Plan is being held at Oleson Park tonight.

The celebration is open to the public.

Ryan Maehl, assistant recreation director of Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, said it’s an opportunity to explain the two projects to attendees.

“The purpose is twofold,” Maehl said. “One to show off and explain the Prairie Rivers Trail expansion and also talk about the Oleson Park Master Plan as well. Those two overlap with the Prairie River Trail expansion going to Oleson Park.”

According to Lori Branderhorst, director of Fort Dodge Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, the Prairie River Trails plan has five trail components in phase II.

• Connecting Shimkat Motor Co. from South 32nd Street to Oleson Park;

• Connecting from Oleson Park through Mason Drive;

• Connecting down to Sunkissed Meadows;

• Smaller neighborhood trail connectors on 22nd Street and Seventh Avenue North;

• A trail on North 15th Street.

Maehl said the goal is to make a loop throughout the city.

“Right now the trail ends at Almost Home,” he said “The trail literally comes to an end right at that building. What’s going to happen is it’s going to continue going south all the way down to 15th Avenue South and then west over to Oleson Park Avenue.”

“It’s another connection between trails,” he added. “The trails committee is about connecting trails to other trails to make it an entire loop and this is another step in that process.”

Branderhorst said the Prairie Rivers Trail expansion project has received both public and private funding.

The project has also received grant money through Enhance Iowa.

“We have also used REAP (Resource Enhancement and Protection) grants that we have applied for,” she said. “We have had several different funding mechanisms that have helped us fund this over the last few years. What has really triggered this is our Enhance Iowa, which replaced the Vision Iowa dollars.”

Branderhorst said the formation of the Webster County Trails Task Force in 2008 has been instrumental expanding trails in Fort Dodge.

“The city built its first trail in 1986 and that was the Soldier Creek Nature Trail,” Branderhorst said. “We had some that were developing slowly, but when that trails task force was formed it just really took off.”

A grant from the Wellmark Foundation is also being used for the Trail Master Plan.

“That is being conducted by Snyder & Associates,” she said. “They are doing both existing conditions and future phases. We have come up with our Trail Master Plan into to the future, as well as developing policies and procedures and how we really market and communicate our trail network.”

The Wellmark grant does not fund trail building, but can be used for the Trail Master Plan.

Maehl said the trails will improve recreation and quality of life in Fort Dodge.

“I think whichever department in the city you are talking to, trails are a high priority,” Maehl said. “With engineering, it’s about getting safe transportation for people, walking, running, bicycling, and getting either designated bike paths on roads or independent bike trails off road access. From park and rec, we want people to be able to get to all of our parks without just having to drive. It’s really our hope to get all trails connecting to parks because then you are using recreation as transportation, but also recreation when you get to those parks.”

Progress continues at Oleson Park, according to Branderhorst.

The Fort Dodge City Council committed $240,000 to two projects at the park.

The first one was the relocation of the deer enclosure.

“We just recently as of Labor Day weekend moved the deer to a new home,” Branderhorst said.

The second project involved filling in the old pond, she said.

“We will also be removing the old fencing and then painting and updating our park structures,” she said. “Those are the first projects that are going on and nearing completion.”

She said the Oleson Park Master Plan includes long-term projects.

“This was a multimillion dollar plan over the course of 20 years,” she said. “We are in the process of picking up these first projects and completing others as we have funding allocated.”

ISG, a Des Moines-based engineering firm, was hired by the city to develop the Oleson Park Master Plan.

Representatives from the firm will be on hand to answer questions pertaining to those plans.

Representatives from RDG, of Des Moines, will speak about the Prairie Rivers Trail expansion.

The city of Fort Dodge, Healthy Webster County Coalition, Fort Dodge Community Foundation, Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, Webster County Conservation, Fort Dodge Cyclist Club, and Fort Dodge Bike Shop have all partnered together for the event.

“It takes a village on this one,” Maehl said. “Everyone is pitching in to create a fun event. We want to get people engaged and involved.”

Branderhorst said it’s a good time to update the community on the recent developments with the trails and the park.

“We have an opportunity to share with the neighborhood everything that is going on with that section of our community, as well as Oleson Park,” she said. “People saw a huge dirt mound there all summer long and now things are moving along. It will be a time to celebrate our success and showcase our future plans.”