PERRY, Iowa, Nov. 11, 2016 -- In ceremonies attended by about 75 people on Thursday evening, Nov. 10, the very active "Let's Connect" committee in Perry announced a $100,000 challenge grant from Joyce & the late Pete VanKirk to help build the 9-mile, $5-million "connector" trail between the Raccoon river Valley Trail here and the High Trestle Trail in Woodward. During the celebration, Mike Wallace, the Dallas County Conservation director, announced that other donations as of that morning had totaled $104,000, thus meeting the VanKirks' challenge.
The community of Perry has gone "all in" on this campaign, as they're helping promote it with a just-placed "Big Bike" sculpture at the trailhead -- 30 feet long and 15 feet tall! And artist Betsy Peterson helped reveal the "Let's Connect" logo and sign she has designed.
The donations from Perry, other communities, individuals, businesses and organizations will be used for matching funds in the application for major grants to complete the new trail sooner. Total fundraising so far has reached about $1.6 million.
Joyce VanKirk said that there are three reasons that she and her husband Pete, who died last August, decided to make such a substantial donation to development of a recreational trail, even though both were in their 70s and hadn't ridden bicycles since their childhood: 1) "We love our hometown and its diversity" of people, businesses and amenities, 2) "recreational trails bring people together" across all societal lines, and 3) they could foresee the positive economic impact the "connector" trail will have on Perry.
The VanKirks, who own Progressive Foundry in Perry, have contributed in other significant ways to the "connector" trail campaign. Brothers Darek and Kirk VanKirk, who now run the foundry, are contributing a long stretch of former railroad right-of-way they own that leaves the city to the northeast, so that part of the "connector" can pass through a beautiful canopy of trees from Perry toward Bouton.
The new "Big Bike" is going to be a real icon for Perry at the community's RRVT trailhead, where the sculpture is lighted after dark. It has a headlight and taillight that work, too. The Big Bike was a three-month-long collaborative effort between community volunteers Cheri Scheib and Joyce VanKirk, with design assistance from Tri-County Ag and welding assistance from Wiese Manufacturing.
You can see more photos of the "Let's Connect" ceremony and of the Big Bike on the RRVT Association's Facebook page, which you can access by clicking here.
Joyce VanKirk and Mike Wallace hold the ceremonial check with the $100,000 donation to the "Let's Connect" campaign, while Joyce's sister Jill Brosnahan makes the announcement.