Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Clive Greenbelt: Trail of Two Tales

I have such a love/hate with Clive's Greenbelt trail that I don't know where to begin.  I really love its curved layout.  Reminds me of skiing.  Switchbacks all the time.  Highlights the senses especially sight.  Need to look ahead constantly and scan through the trees and look for other trail users.  But when the trail is in heavy use this is a pain in the ass.  I also love the fact that it is a vital segment trail for both commuting and adventure.  Beginning in Windsor Heights the trail allows people to ride all the way to Jefferson, Iowa without having to get on a road or highway.  It also connects to West Des Moines.  But what really does it in for me is winter.  Don't know what it is but this trail seems to be among the worst in terms of being clear of snow and ice.  Maybe budget issues.  Lack of being a priority.  Trees also block much of the sun's warmth needed to melt.

However I will say this.  the trail is being cleared better this year than in previous years.  At the beginning of the winter Mr Plow would leave up to a half an inch of snow on the trail.  This was bad.  Every trail user left thousands of foot, paw and bicycle tracks on the remaining snow and that snow froze hard and turning into ice.  The resulting surface was akin to a cratered moon or minefield.  Then miraculously the city used a brush and the snow was totally cleared from the trail except for the ice from foot prints, paw prints and bike tracks ect.  Improvement.  Still there were large sections of ice that seemed to stay forever and when they melted mini-lakes were formed.  I avoided the trail for the past few weeks opting for Westown Parkway and Buffalo Rd to get me to Windsor Heights and properly groomed trails.  I did not want to deal with the Greenbelt.

This week curiosity got the better of me.  Tale 1: Monday.  Let it be known that on Friday the metro received over an inch of snow.  And Saturday another 3".  And Monday a freak storm dumped another few inches before the temperature hit the 40s by noon and melted much of it away.  So how was the trail?  Horrid.  I started at 128th St.  My wife started at the other end in Windsor Heights.  Totally pocked from trail users over the week end.  Icy as well.  I suppose if I had been on my fat bike with studded tires or a dual suspension MTB with said tires we would have made it.  Not a square millimeter was left untrampled.  Mary quit and turned around.  It was bone shaking.  I kept it up for 3 miles finally getting off on Swanson Blvd.  8 minute miles on the trail are not my cup of tea especially when I felt like I was rolling over IEDs.

Why?  No weekend plowing and constant trail use.  People love the trail and are willing to use it despite the snow.

Tuesday it got up to 54F.  So I opted to give it another chance.  Smoother ride but almost needed a canoe.  The snow and ice on the trail and in the woods surrounding the trail melted.  There are sections over 20 yards long of 4" deep water.  No issues with ice although I road over ice that was on the bottom of the mini-lakes.  Studded tires.  But it occurred to me that the water is attempting to go into Walnut Creek but gets stuck on the trail.  However, the water gets stuck on the trail and is trapped.  Something needs to be done to facilitate drainage.  This problem also exists in warm weather when it rains.

From the the "2 Mile" marker on east the ice is bad from lack of sunlight  Plowing could prevent this.  Further east the run off from businesses adds to the ice and water issues on the trail.

Just a rant.  Today I had a better ride.  Faster times.  Many trail users--several people running, walking dogs and a woman pushing a baby stroller.  People love this trail all year round.  Please keep it safe.  In the furte when the next Jordan Creek Town Center is built more people will need to use this trail to get to and fro work.

 I look forward to the warm months and better times on the Greenbelt.

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