Forest City recently completed the important first phase of its J Street Trail project with a new 10-foot-wide bike, walking, and jogging trail connecting Pammel Park visitors to sidewalks going west along J Street.
City Administrator Barb Smith and Chamber of Commerce Director Norma Hertzer both noted that this first phase project is part of a much larger, longer-term vision for J Street’s “Cultural Arts Corridor” from the Pammel Park and North/East Woods area where there is camping, many recreation activities, and the swinging bridge all the way west to the Boman Fine Arts Center.
“It is so good to get the trail done as far as the railroad tracks (near Farmers Coop Association Grain Elevator),” said Hertzer, noting that the first phase included installation of a push-button crosswalk recently at the intersection of J Street and Highway 69. “This will provide those staying at Pammel Park direct access all the way to the Boman Fine Arts Center, which is really the newest attraction in town.”
Smith said that the city plans to completely redo J Street through town with new paving, curbs and gutters, lighting and all necessary utility infrastructures, including the addition of underground electric.
“It will be extremely expensive in places, so the hope is to do this in phases over 3-5 years while getting the (city’s) bonding cap down,” said Smith. “The good thing is that the trail connects to existing sidewalks, so there is a path there now.” Smith noted that the J Street improvements and the extension of the new recreational trail (in place of sidewalk) should be done simultaneously as the overall project proceeds westward."
Smith and Hertzer noted that the city combined the first phase of the J Street Trail project with two other improvement projects, paving the Forest City Fire Hall’s parking lot and relocating/upgrading the recreational vehicle dumping station. Smith said the new dumping station is closer to the fire station and at a higher elevation in lieu of spring flooding potential.
Hertzer explained that Forest City’s overall vision is even larger, stemming from its nine-month visioning project with Iowa Living Roadways in 2018. About 20 community members worked with Iowa Living Roadways on plans and designs for many corridors.
She noted the Forest City Enhancement Committee’s plans for development that will extend Hynes Spur Trail across J Street along the river in Pammel Park all the way to the Airport Road on the south edge of town. There is existing river trail already winding through portions of Bear Creek Golf Course.
Hertzer also cited fundraising toward about $300,000 and work on a trail addition on the north side of J Street. The Korth Nature Trail there is also following the river and will connect to the Hy-Vee parking lot. The Hy-Vee property was formerly owned by the Bill Korth family, which operated Bill’s Red Owl and Bill’s Family Foods.
“The primary goals are to provide access to the grocery store and promote nature and outdoor recreation along the river,” said Hertzer. “We’d like to finish it in 2021, but there are some factors such as COVID-19 that could cause delays. Even so, I’m super excited about it.”
Hertzer started duties as Chamber Director on March 1, after serving seven years as the former Grow Forest City Director. She said that said that Grow Forest City’s work still continues through the Chamber, which is glad to continue the original vision for the local trail system.
“I’ve already seen a few bikers use the new section of the J Street Trail and people are also checking out what’s happening back there with the Korth Nature Trail,” said Hertzer.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.