The Ottumwa Courier

May 18, 2013

Expanding Ottumwa's trail system

By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The Market Street Bridge is a major link in connecting Ottumwa's north side to its south side.

The seventh annual Wapello County Trails Council mediathon kicked off Saturday morning with volunteers on the phones taking pledges from the community, as well as live radio broadcasts of the event outside featuring city officials.

The event followed Friday's "Tips for Trails" at the Tom Tom Tap, which raised approximately $12,900, breaking close to the council's record of $13,000 raised last year.

"We're going to contribute $40,000 to the project ... no matter what," said the council's president, Kim Hellige.

This year's project is to expand the Market Street Bridge's sidewalk from 5 feet to 8 feet, which will allow for more room for walkers, runners, bikers and more to pass each other as they cross over the Des Moines River. The city is in the process of securing funding and designing the bridge's renovations.

"Five feet is adequate, but our bridges are really connectors for us as well as vehicular connectors," Hellige said. "They also have the potential to enhance our trail system and we want to do what we can to enhance them. With an 8-foot sidewalk, you'll be able to have passing traffic."

For years the bridge has been derated and can only support 13 tons, meaning fire trucks and school buses must find alternate routes. A normal bridge would be rated at 40 tons.

To revamp the bridge, it's going to cost nearly $590,000 with all the aesthetic enhancements, which will include decorative sidewalk rails, concrete barrier rails, handrails and street lights. The increased cost also includes the widened sidewalk, which caught the attention of the trails council.

Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation has also contributed $350,000 to the project.

Hopefully, Hellige said, the draw of "Pages for Pennies" at Bridge View Center, as well as beautiful weather, created more foot traffic at Bridge View Center Saturday morning and more would donate to the project.

"No donation is too small," she said. "The trails are something that everyone can access and use. They're free, they're handicap accessible, they're downtown, they're on the bus line. I recently had relatives come from out of town, who walked on the trails. They said, A: they can't believe we have this trail system and B: it gives them a different perspective on the community.

"It's almost like you're in the country but you're in town. And we see people use the trails year-round."