By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA --- Members of the Wapello County Trails Council were pleased that in one hour Saturday, 50 runners used the trail.
Though that was for a planned event, "The Run to Fund," organizers say they want more people to use the trail system to get outdoors and enjoy Iowa.
The Run to Fund on Saturday was, depending on what the participant wanted, a 10 kilometer (about 6.5 mile) run or a 5 kilometer run.
"It's both a fundraiser and to promote the trails," said Courtney Brown, a trails council member who was the race coordinator. "A lot of people aren't aware of the trails or, [at least,] they're not aware of different parts of the trails. It's nice to show people the trails."
The run Saturday started at one of the two most user-friendly places to begin an outdoor adventure: The Beach Ottumwa.
"I think it's really convenient to start by The Beach or by Bridge View," Brown said.
Both have large parking lots and are well known locations.
"Going from The Beach to Applebee's and back is about 3 miles," Brown estimated, "and it's all flat and straight."
That section of trail passes underneath the highway, so at no point are walkers forced to contend with automotive traffic.
"It's very easy and it's all paved, [so] even wheel chairs could use it," said Brown. "I feel our trails are very safe. There's a lot of lighting, a lot of people use them, and we [helped purchase] a special vehicle so the police can patrol the trail at random intervals, which is a great deterrent to any type of trouble."
That portion is only an example, she said. Overall, the system has more than 12 miles of paths. And the trails are getting use. Brown runs in the mornings, when she sees other runners. Later in the day, she sees bicyclists and walkers.
"I just think it's great to see anyone on the trails. Not every town has a trail system," she said. "The trails are a wonderful asset to Ottumwa. We like to see the trails used."
As for the Run to Fund, Brown sees it happening again next year. Runners gave positive feedback about the event, including enthusiastic approval of the 5 p.m. start time for the race.
"I think that's something we'll stick with," Brown said.
The trails are pretty extensive, council members said, but they continue to grow.
"It's an ongoing process," said Brown. "We're constantly looking at what we can add next."
To see more about the trails, including a live webcam of a trail and final results from the run, visit wapellocountytrails.com or, to follow Courier staff writer Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark