Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Lack of Plowing of the Great Western Trail

Many years ago I'd meet with the Des Moines Cycle Club on Friday evenings in December for the purpose of riding the Great Western Trail.  We'd start at Cumming and ride to Martensdale and back or to Des Moines and back.  MTBs were our choice.  None of us used studded tires.  This was before the trail was paved.  Fatbikes and cyclocross bikes did not exisit in the DSM cycling community.  The trail would be snow covered but rideable.  I feel that unpaved trails handle snow accumilation better than paved.  This was probably over 20 years ago.

Now the trail is paved and well used.  There are more places to frequent, more cyclists in the community.  More people just walking the trail for fitness than ever before.  Yet Polk County feels the need to ignore the trail during winter.  The familiar refrain of "we leave the snow for cross country skiiers" is beging to ring hollow if one actually visits the trail.  There are no ski tracks.  From the 2 mile point onward it would be impossible to ski on the trail.  Too much snow and ice packed down.  Two ruts created from people walking have destroyed the surface layers making anything but slow measured steps all but impossible.  There is a medium bulging in the center.  And even a dusting of snow makes it more dangerous as it covers the visible ice.  I do not think snowmobiles would ride on the trail.

Probably a money issue.  No budget or lack of budgeting for snow removal is the likely cause of this neglect.  Yet Warren County manages to clear snow on it from Cumming to Orilla.  For people starting in Des Moines, one must take a labyrinth of paved and gravel roads from Park Ave to Orilla.  Not a big deal if you are an expirenced gravel rider and know your way around.

Some people prefer to ride on trails and even refuse to take to the roads.  I overheard a conversation between one such person and the a few bicycle advocates.  She said she loves anture and the trails and but feels streets are too dangerous.  Not only because of automobile traffic but her own habit of looking one way and then another at birds and animals and such.  Should be noted that there iws a variety of animal life that habitat on the Great Western Trail even in winter.

But there will be a time in which people will demand better from Polk County.  The area is developing rapidly.  Microsoft is building a data center out there.  Rumors of a strip mall and business park abound near the trail.  People are moving  out there to live.

I am just voicing my concern that Polk County is falling behind the times.  I hope they change their policy.  If it is a funding issue let us work together to solve this issue.  Trails are not outdoor swimming pools.  They are legitimate places for travel for commuters and recreationalists.  People use them all year round.  Judging by the frozen tracks imbedded in the ice, people use the Great Western Trail during winter.  And even the forecasted warm week ahead of us will take its time melting the snow and ice but make the gravel roads a sloppy mess.  When people are ready to get outside the GWT will not be ready.

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