A large section of the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail from Slater to Huxley was paved this summer, and county officials celebrating the completion of the project earlier this month.
“You have to be a little bit stubborn, and a little bit tenacious to get a trail project to go through,” said Ryan Wiemold, Story County Conservation parks superintendent, who was the first of two to speak before a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the trailhead in Slater on Sept. 12.
The only part of the trail not paved is a about a quarter-mile stretch of gravel road connecting the trail to bike lanes on County Road E-63. Officials said there are plans to pave that stretch of gravel road in the coming year.
Wiemold and Pat Shehan, Story County Conservation’s special projects ranger, shared the story of how long it takes and how much work goes into putting a great trail system in place.
“We couldn’t be here today without a lot of heavy lifting that’s gone on through the years,” Wiemold said. That “heavy lifting” goes back to the days of previous conservation employees and directors, like Steve Lekwa, who was present at the Sept. 12 celebration, along with years of laying the groundwork with the railroad and other property owners to gain easements for the land.
The Heart of Iowa Nature Trail has been a limestone trail since it was first put in all the way across the southern portion of Story County, from Slater to Collins. The trail also extends to Melbourne in Marshall County.
Improving the trail’s surface to pavement has been a goal for Story County for many years.
A meeting with leaders from Story County communities in 2017 brought the plan into focus, Shehan said.
“We wanted to get people’s expectations ... (and find out) what they wanted out of this trail,” he said.