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The Cedar Valley Nature Trail, which passes through Cedar Rapids, Waterloo and Cedar Falls, would be one of 12 gateway trails that would anchor a proposed 4,000-mile national bike trail, spurring excitement from local leaders.

Among those is Steve Sovern, a member of ConnectCR, which is leading a $20 million effort to restore Cedar Lake and build the Smokestack pedestrian bridge over the Cedar River. The lake and bridge would be situated on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, a north-south trail in Eastern Iowa, and thus could be highlights of the proposed Great American Rail-Trail.

“The impact in the community will be huge,” Sovern said. “Not everyone in the world will be riding coast-to-coast. People will look for particularly interesting places along the trail where they can jump on. When Cedar Rapids has ConnectCR completed, it will be a huge invitation for people looking to ride to begin in the Heartland.”

The Washington, D.C.-based Rails-to-Trails Conservancy announced earlier this year the vision for an east-west bike trail and “an unprecedented commitment to creating an iconic piece of American infrastructure.”

Cedar Rapids is also expected to be a stop of the American Discovery Trail, another cross-country bike trail. While there would be some overlap in the Midwest, the biggest difference is the Great American Rail-Trail is aiming to be “100 percent off-street” and multiuse for bikers and walkers across the country, said Kevin Belanger, a trail planner for Rails-to-Trails.


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