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Extension coming to Forest City trail system

The J Street Trail Extension, a 530-foot asphalt, 10-foot wide trail, will go along J Street as well as across Highway 69. It will include a push button crosswalk and handicap accessible ramps on both sides.

Forest City residents who use the city's trail system will soon have a bigger path to walk.

The J Street Trail Extension, a 530-foot asphalt, 10-foot wide trail, will go along J Street as well as across Highway 69. It will include a push button crosswalk and handicap accessible ramps on both sides.

The project will cost $215,000 and is already completely funded, not affecting city taxes for residents.

According to Marketing Director Norma Hertzer for Grow Forest City, the extension project is scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2020, due to fundraising being completed in July.

The J Street Trail Extension project has been in the works for a few years, according to Hertzer.

In November 2017, Wellmark’s Healthy Hometown held a walking audit to define the needs for such a project.

Hertzer, along with 12 community members and a few community leaders, walked through downtown Forest City, onto Park Street, circled around on Fourth and then headed down to J Street toward Highway 69, crossing to Pammel Park.

During the walk, they surveyed the walkers, discovering there were barriers and obstacles to pedestrian transportation.

“We found out from this group they strongly agreed this was a primary project to work on,” Hertzer said, “and finding a solution for safely crossing Highway 9 on J Street was a top priority.

"At that point we started working toward that solution.”

Hertzer said in 2018 the city of Forest City went through a Trees Forever Community Visioning program, a year-long process of 15 committee members identifying transportation barriers throughout the community, whether they be roadway, trails or sidewalks.

“We identified projects that would enhance the community and enhance transportation routes,” Hertzer said. “This project was number one. We surveyed the community several times throughout the year and community members wanted this project done.

The surveys were done through the community visioning process, which included a mail survey, community members, invites to verbal surveys, which were held at the high school and also going out into the community and inviting people from various meetings, organizations and clubs to come to scheduled meetings and provide feedback.

“We identified how we were going to work with our current transportation plans,” Hertzer said. “The solution we came up with was extending Hynes Spur Trail off J Street and extend it right up along the emergency services center creating a crosswalk area across Highway 69.

“The goal of that project is to open up that route,” Hertzer said, “and the reason that route is so important is we have our only grocery store located on the east across the highway.

Hertzer said the project will provide access to an essential service in town and provide access to the other side of community, where the city has several housing developments on the east part of the highway.

Hertzer said community members told committee members they didn’t want their children to walk across the highway, "because they don't feel it’s safe and so what we are trying to do is make it safe," she said.

"Another thing to recognize is Pammel Park, which is our largest community park, is across the highway," Hertzer said. "Again, it is very difficult to get across the highway. It will open up access to recreational opportunities for the community as well as businesses. If you live on the east side, it will also provide access to the schools by providing a safe path for kids to walk to and from schools, which is important.

Construction is set to begin after the snow clears, according to Hertzer.

Forest City Administrator Barb Smith said, “This will be a great start to our upcoming J Street Corridor improvements and our Pammel Park improvements. The trail will connect Pammel Park with our downtown businesses and allow our walking public easier access to the grocery store”

Hertzer said the long-term goal for trail development would be to focus on phase two and three, which would be to extend this trail and run it all the way up to J Street, past the schools, the Boman Fine Arts Center and on to the YMCA.

Fundraising sources included Forest City Parks and Rec. Department, Gaylord W., Winnebago Community Foundation, Hanson Foundation, Winnebago Industries Foundation, Wellmark small community match grant, City of Forest City, Hynes Spur Trail Fund ( Dick and Vera Hynes) and the Forest City Electric Plant.

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Jesusa Christians is the Community Editor of the Forest City/Britt Summit-Tribune.

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