By Andrew Potter of the Times Republican

The expected abandonment of the Iowa River Railroad line led to plenty of discussion during Tuesday's Marshall County Board of Supervisors meeting about its future use.

Andrea Chase, trails coordinator of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, began the discussion and said the rail line that is expected to be abandoned from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock would be the ideal location for a recreational trail.

"It would truly be a backbone trail for this area of the state for other communities and parks to latch onto," Chase said.

Though decisions on the project could be years away, Chase wants to look into rail banking the 34-mile stretch of property for future use. Rail banking would put the land in the hands of the foundation as fundraising and grant applications would take place and project details get worked out.

"At this point we are not purchasing, we are not developing, we are not doing anything other than gauging the interest of our potential partners to see if rail banking that corridor is something that they see as beneficial and positive for their communities," Chase said.

Several landowners along the line spoke up with many concerned about liability, drainage and upkeep related to the trail. They also said when the railroad was first put in place many of the easements noted if it would be taken out of commission as a line the land would go back to the original landowners.

"It is my understanding that when these deeds were given out it is supposed to revert back to the adjacent landowner," said landowner Brett Gilmore, who farms land along the line.

The supervisors appeared to be strongly against using county funds for the land acquisition, the building of the trail or the cost of upkeep in the future.

"I don't know how our county can support this financially," said Supervisors Chairman Denny Grabenbauer.

Fellow supervisor Deane Adams also seemed concerned about county money going to the trail.

"I don't see how it's ever going to happen," Adams said.

Those on the side of making it a recreational trail also spoke up saying this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to acquire this parcel of land that would make for a beautiful trail highlighting the area. They also said it would contribute to the area through economic development and provide a way to better health for residents.

Chase asked the supervisors to form a committee of local people who would look into the feasibility of the project and plans are in the works to form one. Hardin County would also have to be on board as the route also goes through that county.

No formal action was taken by the Marshall County Supervisors as the item was on the agenda for a discussion only Tuesday.






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