RRVT named an Iowa Great Place for tourism

The honor also comes with a $200,000 grant; and a major new event scheduled on the trail will bring overnight guests to Jefferson

RRVT~by Chuck Offenburger, RRVT

With the cold, snowy weather recently, it may look quiet on the Raccoon River Valley Trail. But there is a whole lot happening to help make the trail a major tourism attraction.

On Thursday, Jan. 8, the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs announced that the RRVT is one of five new “Iowa Great Places,” a designation that brought with it a $200,000 state grant to help with the public art initiative underway on the trail. “This is a huge shot in the arm,” said Jim Miller of Waukee, a member of the RRVT Association board of directors and the chairperson of the public art committee.

More than $600,000 has now been raised to build the first art installation, the $1.01-million “Waukee Railroad Pergola – in the shadow of the rails.” That is a massive sculpture, nearly 350 feet long, 15 feet tall and 18 feet wide, as a gateway trailhead on the west side of Waukee. That “in the shadow of the rails” is the theme of other art installations that will be built in other communities along the 89-mile trail, which goes through three counties and 14 towns in west central Iowa.

Miller said fundraising for the Waukee structure should be completed during 2015 and construction could start later this year or early next, with completion during 2016. Planning for other art in the other trail communities is already started.

Mary Cownie, director of cultural affairs for the state, said of the RRVT recognition and grant, “We are proud to invest in projects that foster economic growth and enhance the cultural identity of Iowa.”

Another example of the trail fostering economic growth and tourism was announced Saturday.

A “Pedaler’s Jamboree” bicycle-music festival is set for Labor Day weekend on the full-length of the RRVT. The event will bring thousands of bicyclists and their friends in Jefferson for an overnight the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.

Michael Denehy, the promoter, is a native Iowan who has organized a similar jamboree the last six years on the KATY Trail in Missouri, with bands playing in towns all along the trail during a two-day ride.

Denehy said he expects the jamboree on the RRVT will attract 1,000 to 2,000 riders in its first year. Bicyclists will leave Waukee on Saturday morning, Sept. 5, and ride the trail’s “north loop” to Jefferson, where there will be overnight camping and a large street party on the courthouse square. The riders will return to Waukee on Sunday, Sept. 6, via the “south loop” of the trail. Up to 20 bands are expected to perform.

The jamboree is being planned with the approval of the RRVT Association. Phyllis Drake of Scranton and Jefferson, a member of the association’s board of directors, is the coordinator for trail communities and said additional information will be made available to them soon.

In addition, planning is now underway for the RRVT Association’s annual fundraising banquet, which is set for Saturday evening, Feb 21, at the Marriott Hotel in West Des Moines. Featured speaker will be Dr. Richard Deming, the Des Moines oncologist and philanthropist who has led cancer patients on mountain climbing, hiking and bicycling adventures around the world.

More details on all trail events are available at www.raccoonrivervalleytrail.org.

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