With construction proceeding on the new Iola Elementary School, Iolans were given their first glimpse Monday of plans to extend the Missouri Pacific Trail to connect the school site to the rest of town.
Iola Assistant City Administrator Corey Schinstock and representatives from Thrive Allen County were on hand for a 90-minute open house-style meeting to show how the trail would connect along the old MoPac right of way.
The trail stretches from the Prairie Spirit Trail on the west edge of town to the athletic fields north of Iola Middle School.
The city, with assistance from Thrive, has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the Sunflower Foundation to pay to extend the trail the six blocks or so to the elementary school site.
Both entities are awaiting word on a $160,000 grant from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism that would allow the trail to extend even farther east in order to connect to the easternmost neighborhoods in town.
Lisse Regehr, Thrive executive director, explained the necessity to go beyond the school site.
By extending the trail to the eastern city limits — it would reach the Sterling Six Cinemas and Super 8 Hotel properties — it would allow residents to get to the new elementary school and points west.
“There is no connection to that part of town” via trails, Regehr noted.
In fact, youngsters have stacked pallets along the proposed trail route in two locations in order to cross a low-lying drainage ditch area.
“It’s not safe at all,” Regehr said. “We’d really like to create a safe way for them to get across. I cringe at little kiddos trying to get across that.”
Two pedestrian bridges will be added if the trail is extended further.
Regehr said she hopes to hear by the end of the month whether the city will receive the KDWPT grant.
SCHINSTOCK spoke with several residents who live along the planned extension to detail how close the trail would be to some properties.
The city has a 60-foot right-of-way along the old MoPac rail corridor.
In a perfect world, the trail will line up in the dead center of that right-of-way, but Schinstock noted that’s not possible because of trees and other natural or manmade obstacles.
“We want to keep as much of that nature as we can without destroying it,” he said. “If we can scrape off 4 inches and put on 4 inches of screenings, that’s what we want to do.”
Likewise, the city will take every measure to avoid things such as fences, buildings or driveways along the route.
“We’re not gonna try and take out fences,” Schinstock said. “For the most part, we’ll try to go around obstacles.”
Schinstock was uncertain when work on the trail extension would begin, but promised to get the word out as soon as possible once a timeline is established.