• Paige Godden
  • Wed December 14 2016
  • Posted Dec 15, 2016

The city of West Des Moines is going to have to strike a balance between property owners and bicyclists as it tries to extend Veterans Parkway, which could overlap with the Great Western Trail through northwest Warren County.

More than 100 people, both bikers and homeowners, showed up to a Warren County Conservation Board meeting Wednesday night, where West Des Moines officials presented four new options for the project. The conservation board holds the deed to the land the trail is on.

Before West Des Moines can move or reconstruct the trail, the Warren County Conservation Board would have to declare they no longer need the land the trail sits on for parks use.

West Des Moines shared a possible route for the extension before the meeting, but bikers were upset the trail would be turned into a bike lane on a six-lane highway.

During Wednesday's meeting, bikers complained the trail would be more dangerous next to a highway and said natural resources, such as the canopy of trees that now looms over the trail, would be cut down.

Duane Wittsock, West Des Moines’ engineer, presented a few more alternatives to the board and to the public at the meeting. The alternative routes leave the existing trail but bisect some property owners’ land, which is what the city was trying to avoid.

Melynda DeCarlo, who owns land near the proposed extension route, said she prefers a plan that would keep the existing trail intact, and has Veteran's Parkway running parallel to the trail route, but the two are not adjoined.

She said she is concerned about some of the proposed paths because the new road could run into her property, or the property her mother used to own right across the street. The home on that property is more than 100 years old, she said.

The trail expansion will be necessary once Microsoft opens up the nation's largest data center on 200 acres of land just south of the Dale Maffitt Reservoir, west of Interstate Highway 35.

A citizen at the meeting asked why Warren County Conservation would consider altering the intent of the land.

Jim Priebe, Warren County Conservation director, said the area near the trail is going to be developed eventually, so being able to work with West Des Moines to make sure the best trail remains at least gives the conservation board a voice in the project.

Scott Richardson, a Norwalk resident, said he’s a daily bike commuter. He rides 19 miles to work every day.

He questioned whether Microsoft had a stance on taking out a trail, and assumed they wouldn’t like it after he researched Microsoft’s past politics and philanthropic adventures.

The Warren County Conservation Board is expected to vote on the issue at its Jan. 11 meeting.

Wittsock said West Des Moines needs to figure out what Warren County will allow them to do with the trail and then have more meetings with homeowners before it decides on a path.

Although a meeting date has not been set to solidify where the Veteran’s Parkway extension will go, Wittsock said he expects it to be held sometime this spring.






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