For some time, Rush City leaders have been planning a trail project to give people of all ages a safer place to walk, exercise and reach places of destination around town without having to rely on the busy roadways.
The city’s park board is perhaps the most active proponent of what’s been coined the Safeways trail (highlighted on map). Proposed to follow Fairfield Avenue between West Fourth Street and County Road 7, it’s the main stretch along County Road 7 (between Fairfield and South Field avenues) that has many on board with the concept.
The goal, explained Park Board Chairman Bob Frandsen, is to keep people — from pedestrians to student track and cross-country runners — off of County Road 7 by giving them a safer route away from the busy and sometimes speeding traffic that uses the roadway.
He and fellow board members are hoping to get the word out, too, since the trail also promotes physical fitness and convenience among the walking public who want to be able to access notable destinations including the schools, jobs and businesses, the public library, pool and other neighborhoods — all without using the road.
The ultimate goal is to create a connecting loop for people in all developments to get where they want to go, safely and off the highway. County Road 7 has become busier because of the new streets in town, Frandsen added.
While there has been progress, with some property owners signing off on easements, some paving of trail segments and improvements from last summer’s turnback project, Safeways planners are looking for more easements from property owners and funding — through grant dollars, for instance — to help complete the path. Also anticipated for the future is a boardwalk to cover a stretch of shallow wetlands.
The park board discussed easements at its April 15 meeting this spring. While one couple agreed to allow an easement on the north side of their property along County Road 7, the board is looking for word from First Lutheran Church. Another issue is getting in touch with those involved with a foreclosed property.
In addition, board members have talked about paving more of the trail area to help let people know that it’s a project in progress. They’ve agreed to pursue bids to pave the trail that runs behind a home from Field Avenue to County Road 7, along with an easement to do another proposed section running from Jay Avenue to Keller Avenue on the south side of County Road 7.
Trails are expensive to build, Frandsen noted at a council meeting last year, and easements are still needed on some private property.
Yet it’s County Road 7 and the issue of safety that he and others remain especially concerned about.
“There’s no question a trail is needed there,” City Councilor Al Hoffman has said.