The Cedar Trails Partnership Begins
In 1994, the Cedar Valley Lakes Board, a local non-profit group, was working to develop recreational venues around the lakes being created by highway construction excavation. That fall, the Cedar Trails Partnership was formed and quickly applied for nonprofit 501(c)(3) status, which was granted in 1995.
Representatives from the partnership began attending meetings and public hearings of the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (MPO) in order to stay informed about trail funding opportunities. A membership drive shortly followed, generating more than 200 members, and suddenly the organization had a treasury large enough to start doing things.
The First Cedar Trails Festival
Early on it was suggested the CTP organize a festival to publicize and promote the trail system. This immediately became the organization's focus, and in August 1996, the first Cedar Trails Festival was held, a four-day extravaganza featuring more than a dozen events, including the "Light Up the Night Ride," which has since become the festival's signature event.
The focus of the CTP remained trail advocacy, with a CTP representative gaining an advisory seat on the MPO, its technical committee, and the enhancement committee; and on organizing the annual trails festival.
In 1998, the CTP began to take a more proactive approach to trails issues. The CTP acted as a facilitating agency, drawing together all of the municipalities and agencies with trails oversight to develop a coherent and consistent policy on privately-donated benches and other trail enhancements. Working with law enforcement and governing agencies, the CTP also organized a volunteer Cedar Trail Patrol to provide security and assistance to trail users.
These components of the partnership remain vital today.
The Grant Program
In 1999, with funds generated from the festival and memberships, the CTP made its first grants for trail improvements. A second round of grants was made in 2003, and the grant program became an annual affair. To date, tens of thousands of dollars have made many important maintenance, construction and trail enhancements, including:
- the purchase of Prairie Pathways, wayfinding and emergency signage
- materials to seal cracks
- purchase of prairie plants and sculpture adjacent to the trail
- water fountains and bike racks
- purchase of a trail sweeper, chain saw and other equipment for George Wyth State Park
- printing of trail guides
- trail counting equipment for the Black Hawk County Conservation Board
- bicycle maintenance stations along the trails