We have been busy compiling several news stories about the Great Western Trail and Veterans Parkway. The summary of the saga - from July 2016 to early January 2017, is here.
Back in July 2016, the Great Western Trail was listed in a special to The Des Moines Register as a trail that could be expanded. In the same article, Polk County Conservation Director (and recently announced 2018 gubernatorial candidate) Rich Leopold said there was a plan in place to move the trail before Maffitt Lake Road was extended. (Read: No mention of Veterans Parkway.)
Link to "What's new for central Iowa cyclists this year"
By October, there were rumblings that the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundationhad concerns about what could happen to the Great Western Trail...
Link to "Advocates worry new WDM road will ruin part of the Great Western Trail"
At the same time. West Des Moines was admitting they had been planning this "parkway" for a long time - but that money from Microsoft Project Osmium was making it happen much sooner than expected.
Over here at BIKEIOWA, we noticed that the "parkway" isn't much of a park - except it's a roadway proposed to be built over what is currently a park. Pave paradise to put up a parking lot, anyone?
Link to "Veterans Parkway to open by 2019, West Des Moines says"
There was so much concern over proposed changes to the Great Western Trail that West Des Moines came up with alternative routes for Veterans Parkway. These alternatives were presented at a Warren County Conservation Board meeting.
Link to "Changes could preserve scenic stretch of Great Western Trail"
Then, in advance of the Warren County Conservation Board meeting, WHO TV Channel 13 had a really nice segment about why the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation was concerned about the Veterans Parkway Project.
The BIG MEETING was at a Warren County Conservation Board meeting on December 14. West Des Moines City Engineer Duane Wittstock presented several different routing options and lots of questions and concerns were posed by members of the public.We live tweeted the whole thing.
Link to "New routes proposed for Veterans Parkway extension"
Just after Christmas, the announcement was made that a bridge would be built over the Raccoon River to accommodate the Veterans Parkway. About 30 acres would be preserved for Indiana bat habitat. There's no mention of the Great Western Trail - but there is a nice Google Map of what the City of West Des Moines would like the roads to look like in the future.
Link to "Bridge over Raccoon River will make way for Veterans Parkway"
As the New Year unfolded, there were still a lot of unknowns about the Veterans Parkway expansion - and what it means for the Great Western Trail. Jeffrey Perkins, part of Bike Law Iowa, wrote a very nice Letter to the Editor about why Great Western Trail has value.
Link to "West Des Moines should preserve Great Western Trail"
Building a new Veterans Parkway won't just affect Great Western Trail users. There are a number of homes that will be affected. People could lose their homes, depending where the road is routed.
On January 4, the City of West Des Moines had a meeting with affected landowners. Many of them had questions. Many of them pleaded that the road not be built at all. Very few of them seemed ready to sell their property and move out.
Keri Carney, Executive Director of 1000 Friends of Iowa,gave an impassioned testimony about West Des Moines' land use.
You can read all about what happened at the meeting on BIKEIOWA's Twitter feed and see some portions in this news coverage from KCCI.
Link to "Landowners speak out against controversial road expansion"
So, that's that. A quick reading of the Veterans Parkway/Great Western Trail Saga - so far - will show you that a lot of information has changed in a short time. Answers change - and sometimes they are unknown. Public servants are being asked to make big decisions without being fully informed.
Duane Wittstock, West Des Moines City Engineer, has been very clear that the cyclists have been heard.
Now, it's most imperative that AFFECTED LANDOWNERS contact the City of West Des Moines and let them know they are against the road.
Also, WARREN COUNTY RESIDENTS should contact the Board of Supervisors and the County Conservation Board and let them know they are against GIVING AWAY the Great Western Trail for the Veterans Parkway.
Who knows what will happen next? We'll keep you posted as it unfolds.