COUNCIL BLUFFS — After hearing ideas from the public, Pottawattamie County officials will put together a plan for a countywide trail system that could offer new recreational opportunities and economic benefits.
"We're hoping to have a plan by June," said Brian Leaders, a local employee of the National Park Service.
The fourth and final public meeting was Thursday at Iowa Western Community College. It followed recent meetings in Neola, Carson and Avoca.
While Council Bluffs has its own trail system within the city limits and even hooks up with a trail that goes south of town into Missouri, there isn't anything that goes to the north or east into rural county areas.
Leaders said this could be a missed opportunity because a national east-west trail, the American Discoveries Trail, is nearing completion at Atlantic, with preliminary plans to head south toward Red Oak.
"Now, it goes around Pottawattamie County," he told the crowd of about 50.
Those plans could change if the county had its own trail system that could connect to Atlantic, he said.
Trails not only improve the quality of life with the focus on health and recreation, but they also provide educational opportunities, Leaders said.
"They provide local businesses with new customers," he said.
A portion of Thursday's meeting involved the public drawing their favorite trail routes on county maps.
As at other meetings, the top choice is a trail that would go alongside Railroad Avenue on the eastern edge of Council Bluffs, then north through Underwood to Neola.
From there, the trail would head east in the general vicinity of Iowa Highway 83, passing nearby to Minden, Avoca and Walnut.
Another top choice, though, is a northern trail from North Broadway through Crescent and then the Hitchcock Nature Center. This could connect with the national north-south Lewis and Clark Trail.
Whatever the route, it won't come cheaply or quickly. To complete a system this large could take up to 30 years, Leaders said, at an average cost of $200,000 a mile.
Two main money sources would be the federal government and state funds, he said.