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With its spectacular 130-foot-tall bridge over the Des Moines River, the High Trestle Trail drawsmore than 250,000 annual visitors from Iowa and beyond. Now Ankeny, at the other end of the 25-mile biking and pedestrian trail, wants to make its section just as memorable.

A proposal submitted to the Ankeny City Councilcalls for a host of improvements to the already popular byway, which runs 4.1 miles from its eastern trailhead through one of Iowa's fastest-growing cities.

The plan includes temporary and permanent art installations atpoints alongthe trail. Included are 6- to 8-foot-tall sculpturesof Iowa prairie animals, pocket parks, colorfully decorated under- and overpasses and a 15-foot-high trestle bridge sculpture under which the trail would pass.

The elaborate proposal documentalso envisions new signage that would make it easier for trail users to find their way.

The proposalis the product of work by city staff, a consulting team and a steering committee of Ankeny cultural leaders, business owners and residents. Itnotes that in surveys conducted about the trail, nonresidents sawAnkeny as "insular, plain, cookie-cutter" and so on.

"But,they still visit for the High Trestle Trail," it says. "Nearly everyone surveyed uses and enjoysthe trail system, though not all associatethe High Trestle Trail with Ankeny.In the absence of a strong identity andwith a growing, enthusiastic citizenry,there is opportunity to embrace Ankeny’ssafe, clean family-friendly traits andcreate trail experiences that help thecommunity build an intentional andwelcoming future as it continues to grow."

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Firetrucker Brewery, located near wherethe trail crosses Southwest Third Street in the city's Uptown district, servescustomers from all over the country who come to bike the High Trestle Trail, said co-owner Scott Kaven.

"Ankeny is really cool, and the High Trestle Trail is awesome, but we need something like this to also compliment it," Kaven said. "Art is great. ... It's another visual aspect that everyone needs, and this is definitely putting Ankeny on the map."

Since the brewery opened in 2014, Kaven and fellow co-owner Neil Zaugg saidthey have seen shops, bars and restaurants popping up to serve the people the trail draws, especially inUptown.

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Carin Murphy, president of the Ankeny-based Lake Country Cyclists group, said she believes the trail already has plenty of foot traffic but would benefit from more amenities.

"I think that would be great, because that will make the city of Ankeny look nicer and more friendly," Murphy said.

She and other club members were among more than 1,000 stakeholders whocontributed to the plan, with an additional 267 residents participating in a virtual open house. A city parks and facilities comprehensive plan surveyshowed that61% of Ankeny residents named walking and biking trails — more than any other amenity — as a priority.

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Existing construction along the trail will continue, with a new underpass opening this fall. The extension runs south from South Ankeny Boulevard to Magazine Road.

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Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, said public art along the trailcould be a wise investment for the rising suburb as it seeks to establish its identity.

"Public art leads to vibrancy in our community, enhances quality of life and makes our region a more attractive place for people to live and work,” Byers said.


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