The idea of creating a multi-use trail connecting the communities of Calamus and Wheatland, has been the subject of discussion for some time now.

After all, the two towns share schools, city-wide celebrations, organizations, events, programs and even the same city clerk.

Now, thanks to a recent distinction, the idea of joining Calamus and Wheatland by way of recreational trail is on a clear path to becoming a reality.

Calamus and Wheatland are two of 10 Iowa communities selected to participate in the Iowa’s Living Roadways Community Visioning Program in 2021.

The award-winning program integrates technical landscape planning and design with sustainable community action. Leaders within the program will help communities make sound and meaningful decisions about their local landscape and provide expertise on designing various projects. 

Lance Goettsch, who is a member of the Calamus City Council, vice president of the Eastern Iowa Sno-Riders and founder of the Calamus-Wheatland Hometown Pride committee, said being part of the program will significantly help the communities’ chances of being able to obtain the funding necessary to make any changes or improvements, including a long sought-after multi-use trail.

“The program will produce various types of designs and proposals from the studies this program conducts, including designs and proposals for trails, downtown improvement projects, community murals, improved signage and railroad quiet zones,” he explained. 

Tale of the trail

The slogan for the trail project, appropriately, is “Two Towns — One Community.”

One of the hurdles to cross when it comes to building a trail is crossing the Wapsipinicon River. 

One option includes restoring existing infrastructure. 

Repairing the U.S. 30 bridge east of Wheatland was something community members began looking into in July of 2019. 

The bridge, which was built in 1931, is made of steel beams and a concrete deck and was closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic in 2017.

Community members held a meeting with Clinton County Engineer Todd Kinney to go over the possibility of repairing the bridge. Goettsch said fixing the river crossing would allow for people operating snowmobiles, side-by-side recreational vehicles and all-terrain vehicles to cross the Wapsipinicon.

The only way to cross right now is to use the U.S. 30 bridge, he noted, which can pose a danger when drivers see lights coming on and off the bridge and going down into the ditches.

Goettsch suggested fixing the bridge could lead to the development of a trail between Calamus and Wheatland, which could be utilized by pedestrian, bicycle and golf cart traffic as well.

“Both communities would benefit from a multi-use trail connecting our communities,” Goettsch related. “This trail could be used for the track and cross country (teams), who do not have a track or designated course to run for practice. The trail also would be great for community members looking for a scenic route to walk, run or bike. Additionally, we would like to explore the idea of allowing the use of golf carts on this trail. 

“The center point of this trail would be located at the Wapsi Oaks Country Club. This would be a great meeting point for pedestrians and bicyclists. This trail would be very scenic, as it also passes down the original Lincoln Highway, through the Syracuse Wildlife Management area and crosses the Wapsipinicon near the Wheatland boat ramp, which is an important source of entertainment for the locals and tourists for fishing, kayaking, boating and floating down the river.”

Goettsch said the stretch of Lincoln Highway between Calamus and Wheatland has always has been an important, safe route for four-wheelers, side-by-sides (UTVs) and snowmobilers wanting to cross the river into western Clinton County from the east, or those wanting to come from the west without having to go all the way around through Toronto and Lost Nation.

He noted it is illegal for four-wheelers and UTVs to cross into Scott County by Sherman Park, due to the county-wide ordinance prohibiting them on public roadways. Without a bridge, the communities are disconnected to the recreational opportunities that exist between the two towns, he said.

The bridge also could be used for emergency use, Goettsch said.

Goettsch hopes to begin their community visioning program trails study at the beginning of 2021, and to collaborate with county officials. In the end, they’re intention is to apply for Resources Enhancement and Protection (REAP) grants to fund a portion of the trails part of the program.

Group has hometown pride

At the local level, the communities are operating under the name “Calamus-Wheatland Hometown Pride.” 

The committee includes a diverse team from various backgrounds, including western Clinton County professionals in banking, agriculture, engineering, college students, teachers, accountants, business owners, consultants and others with ages ranging from members in their teens through their 60s.

They will be working with professionals form the Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa State University Landscape and Architecture Extension and Trees Forever. In addition, professional landscape architects will offer expertise in creating conceptual design plans for the communities.

As for what will become of the closed bridge, Goettsch said a funding source could be there Federal Highway Bridge Program offered through the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, those funds can only used for bridges closed within the last 10 years. Therefore, a decision will need to be made soon.

Having sat in on numerous meetings with Clinton County Supervisors, Kinney, the East Central Intergovernmental Association and the Clinton County Conservation Board and given the results of the bridge feasibility study, Goettsch said organizers likely are left with three possible options.

They can remove the bridge and not replace it

They can replace it with a recreational bridge on top of the current piers, which the feasibility study concluded are in good condition, at a cost of $750,000, according to an estimate from Contech Engineered Solutions in December 2019. Size wise, the bridge would be like the ones in Westbrook Park. The project would be eligible for a variety of regional and federal grants. 

The third option would be to rehabilitate the bridge, which would cost $2.1 million, according to the Sept. 4, 2019 feasibility study. 

The other 2021 visioning communities are Alleman, Conrad, Emmetsburg, Malvern, Princeton, Shenandoah, Tama and Toledo.