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  • Linh Ta
  • Fri November 12 2021
  • Posted Nov 13

The Des Moines metro's trail system is our area's crown jewels. But as our suburbs rapidly develop, we risk losing the trees that make our paths an outdoor escape.

Why it matters: Urban sprawl is happening quickly. As cities and developers build on new land, trails are often in the middle, leading out into these less developed areas.

  • But it comes at a cost, resulting in the loss of natural vegetation that offers a reprieve from noise pollution, traffic and wind.

State of play: No one tracks tree loss in the metro, but there's no doubt it's happening more frequently, said Adam Fendrick, park planner for Polk County Conservation, which handles the county's trail system.

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But don't expect shade for a while — it'll take about 10-15 years for the overhead canopy trees to fill in, Fendrick said.

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Scott Sumpter, of Bike Iowa, said cyclists have accepted development will happen, but he encourages cities to take West Des Moines' lead and commit to less intersection traffic.

  • "We definitely don't want another Hickman," Sumpter said, referencing the stoplights and driveways in Waukee that cross the trail.


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