Grant Wood Loop celebrates Wapsi Trail


Wapsi Trail committee members, contributing landowners, project partners and donors, and county and regional officials all took part in the Oct. 4 ribbon-cutting event. This signifies the completion of phase one, and the start of phase two. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

Two of the committee members who have been with the Wapsi Trail Project since its inception five years ago are Dusty Embree and Kris Gobeli. Both thanked the projects partners for contributing toward the project. They said this project brought so many people together.
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

The completion of phase one of the Wapsipinicon Trail project doubles the amount of hard-surface trail that currently exists in Jones County. 

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather on Friday evening, Oct. 4, the Wapsi Trail committee welcomed the public to take part in the ribbon cutting to acknowledge the end of the first phase, and to kick off phase two. 

The trail brought almost 80 partners together for this project, including Jones County and the City of Anamosa. 

The committee, which has been with this project since its inceptions five years ago, also just announced the receipt of $243,000 from the Federal Highway and Transportation Alternative Program for phase two. 

“That’s nearly half of the next phase,” said committee member and Conservation Director Brad Mormann. 

The committee includes Mormann, Brad Hatcher, Dennis Murphy, Dusty Embree, Kris Gobeli, and Lisa McQuillen. 

The Wapsi Trail Project is actually part of the State of Iowa and Parks Foundation Parks to People/Grant Wood Loop region. The three-county region is made up of Jones, Jackson and Dubuque counties. This was the first Parks to People region in the state, and as Grant Wood Loop representative Dave Heiar said, “We were very successful with this pilot program.” 

The state kicked in $1.9 million to the region to assist with planning and project implementation. After all is said and done, the region completed 80 projects, worth over $50 million. 

Rep. Andy McKean, who also donated a piece of his land in Anamosa for the trail project, spoke of the impact trails have on people’s quality of life. 

“As we look to the future of Jones County, we’re interested in attracting and keeping young people in our community,” McKean said. “This is the way to do it. This is what people are looking for. They’re looking for recreational opportunities, good natural resources, cultural opportunities. These quality of life issues are what young people and even old people like me enjoy.” 

McKean thanked the committee members for their vision, and praised the county for wanting to be a part of a forward-thinking region. 

“I particularly appreciate the fact that Jones County has been part of the Parks to People program. We were very lucky. We were extremely fortunate to be one of the first regions in Iowa to have the benefit of that program,” said McKean. 

Mormann said he’s seen numerous people of all ages already taking advantage of the trail, which is why it’s important to move on to phase two and finish the project. 

“This is a great opportunity for folks to come out and enjoy the great outdoors, to lead that healthy active lifestyle,” Mormann said. “I’ve already seen it happening. That just shows we did a great thing and we hope to keep building on that.” 

Mormann highlighted so many different donors, 76 in all, who contributed to the trail project. He said if your name is not on the list, that just means it can be added to phase two. 

In speaking of the healthy lifestyle, the Wellmark Foundation, which promotes health and wellness, contributed over $700,000 to the Parks to People region. 

“It’s cool that they put that many resources into our little piece of the state,” praised Mormann. 

Becky Wampler-Bland, executive director of the Wellmark Foundation, said she was amazed at the number of grant applications stemming from the three-county region. 

“We get probably 100 applications in a grant cycle. I bet 10 of them were from this region,” she shared. 

Wampler-Bland said it’s been fun traveling the region to see how each project turned out now that so many are completed. 

“I’m excited to see all the fruits of your labor,” she said. “It’s really awesome. You should be really proud of what’s happening in this region.” 

Embree and Gobeli have both been with the trail committee since its inception, and held back tears as they celebrated the completion of phase one. 

Gobeli, who also serves on the Jones County Economic Development board, said it was important for JCED and the county to be on board together and take this trail project on for the betterment of the county and region. 

“It’s good for our quality of life in Jones County,” echoed Gobeli of what was said by so many others. “It’s good for our employers. It’s good for our residents who call Jones County home. It’s good for tourism. It’s an attraction for people.” 

Embree praised and thanked County Auditor Janine Sulzner for her work and dedication toward the trail project when it came to assisting the committee with their finances. 

“She has been our rock. I don’t know financially where we would be without her helping to organize it all. She’s just been so important,” said Embree. 

She also thanked all of the landowners who stuck it out through the construction to see the trail completed. 

“They’ve all been very gracious,” she said. 

With that, the ribbon was cut and those in attendance walked the length of the trail and earned a “Wapsi Trail Phase 1 Finisher” button. 

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