The Raccoon River Valley Trail Association helped make this trail one of the best in America!
The Board of Directors of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association.
A new organization was formed in early 2006 to market and promote the Raccoon River Valley Trail in west central Iowa.
The Raccoon River Valley Trail Association, a non-profit membership group, also facilitates tourism and economic development initiatives up and down the 89-mile-long paved trail, the first parts of which were constructed and opened in 1989. The trail now stretches from Jefferson on the north, to the Des Moines metro area on the southeast. A 33-mile “north loop” through Perry is being completed now, making the RRVT the longest trail in Iowa and one of the longest in the nation.
The association grew out of a task force of about 10 members that worked during late 2004 and 2005 on several trail-related projects. Those include a specially-designed and coordinated new $50,000 signage system, which was installed and has been added to as the trail was extended. They also set goals of encouraging the development and/or construction of permanent restroom facilities and overnight accommodations in all the towns along the trail – even the smallest of them.
We think our association might be the first ever formed in the state to promote one specific trail. We think of our organization like a Chamber of Commerce for the whole Raccoon River Valley Trail.
Once the RRVT was networked into the Des Moines metro trail system during 2006, the number of annual users on the RRVT began to steadily grow, and is now estimated at more than 125,000 people per year. The RRVT Association projects that number could triple or quadruple in the years ahead, with the completion of the north loop and more amenities being developed along the trail.
“One of the things we’ve done is study other trails around the nation, to determine what kind of amenities the trail users really want,” said Carla Offenburger, of Cooper, a former board member and founding chairperson of the association. “The one we’ve really modeled most of our ideas from is the Root River State Trail in southeast Minnesota, which is the economic engine that has built a $25 million per year tourism industry in Fillmore County – and that’s a rural area in that state.”
The RRVT is owned and managed by the Conservation Boards in Greene, Guthrie and Dallas Counties. The three county conservation directors – Dan Towers in Greene, Joe Hanner in Guthrie and Mike Wallace in Dallas – serve as ex-officio members of the new RRVT Association board of directors.
Other board members are trails advocates Chuck Offenburger, of Cooper; Kevin Wilbeck, of Rippey; Bob Wilson, of Perry; Karen Sievers, of Panora and Guthrie Center; Cindy Jensen of Des Moines and Panora; Jim Miller, of rural Waukee; Bob German, of Dallas Center; Jon Doll, of Waukee; Phyllis Drake, of Jefferson; Daniel Willrich, of Dallas Center, and Michelle Fields, of Paton. In March 2012, Willrich was elected the new chairperson of the board, with Jensen as vice-chairperson, Sievers as secretary and German as treasurer.
Two others who have served as advisors are Chris Whitaker, of Carroll, who works with the Region XII Council of Governments, and Cheri Ure, of Jefferson, who teaches at the Iowa State University College of Design.
The board generally meets the fourth Friday of the month, beginning at 12 noon, usually at a restaurant in one of the three counties. The meetings are open to the public, and you can find out the schedule and location by inquiring at email@example.com.
The association launched this ‘Net site www.RaccoonRiverValleyTrail.org on May 1, 2006, with information and features about the trail itself, as well as attractions and businesses in the communities located on and near the trail. The association hired David Harrenstein, of Lanesboro Web Management Group in Lanesboro, Minnesota, to develop the site. Harrenstein, a native Iowan, is webmaster of several sites affiliated with the Root River State Trail in Minnesota as well as RAGBRAI’s site on the ’Net. In early 2009, Chris Brocka of G.Rafics, Inc., based in Adel, took over as webmaster and spearheaded a near-total redesign of the site. That change reflects the association’s goal of doing as much business as possible with companies in the RRVT communities.
The RRVT Association was started with $3,000 in donations arranged by the conservation directors of the three counties along the trail.
We work with communities all along the trail in the three counties, helping them to develop new businesses and attractions that will interest trail users and other tourists. At the same time, we are promoting the trail with bicyclists and other recreation enthusiasts across the nation and around the world. We want to make the RRVT a real destination for trail users.
Annual activities include a winter banquet for RRVT Association members and trail advocates; partnering with the Des Moines Cycle Club on the “Tour the Raccoon” ride on the second weekend of June, using the full length of the trail with an overnight stay in Jefferson; and in mid-summer a free picnic for members. In addition, directors attend various other events and take turns staffing an RRVT display booth to distribute information about the trail. Many special activities are planned for 2013, when the completed north loop will be formally opened and celebrated.
And, please, share your ideas with us for improving the trail and the amenities along the way.