Area outdoor recreation enthusiasts are discovering the new Korth Nature Trail, which runs along the Winnebago River immediately north of J Street in Forest City.
Although it is not quite officially completed, the scenic trail appears finished after asphalt work was done recently. It spans more than a half-mile, circling back to end up at the north end of the Hy-Vee parking lot. It also connects to the Hynes Spur Trail, which winds through Pammel Park and runs through the Bear Creek Golf Course and Disc Golf Course, past the Winnebago rally grounds, and to the Forest City Municipal Airport industrial park on the south side of town.
Additionally, there are future plans to extend the existing north end of this trail to and along Highway 69 and the Secor Avenue intersection.
“We’re super excited about it,” Forest City Chamber of Commerce Director Norma Hertzer said. “This has been going on since 2019. It’s been a long project.”
She said the recent trail expansion comes with an estimated price tag of about $300,000. She thanked the largest donors, which are the Korth family that donated the land that holds this trail, Winnebago Industries, and the Hanson Foundation. She said the project could not have been completed without a flurry of community support that brought in more than $28,000 in individual contributions during a 30-day period recently.
“It shows that the community really wants it,” Hertzer said. “We’ve seen tremendous community support.”
Although finishing touches are yet to be added to the new section of trail, Hertzer said “it looks like it is done, so some people are already using it and we are all excited about it.”
She said that Heartland Asphalt of Mason City, which has handled project construction, would soon return to finish building up and packing the shoulders of the trail. In the meantime, the trail is safe for area walkers to sneak a peek. The Forest City Enhancement Committee hopes to add some informational kiosks/signage and possibly a picnic table near the river, where it turns west. It is a 501c(3) non-profit organization committed to developing projects in Forest City.
The Korth Nature Trail is part of a much larger vision of trails that have been and are being developed in Forest City. Hertzer noted the importance of the trails for pedestrians, bikers, and runners seeking to be mobile around town. She said the trails connect them to important businesses and services, noting that the Korth Nature Trail is especially key in providing access to food and essential supplies. The Hy-Vee and former Bomgaars properties are owned by the Korth family, which owned and operated the former Bill’s Red Owl and Bill’s Family Foods there for many years.
With the Korth land donation, an easement area with the new trail section will be owned and maintained by the city.
The newest trail also connects to the first phase of Forest City’s J Street Trail project that links Pammel Park visitors to sidewalks going west along J Street. That trail goes as far west as the railroad tracks near Farmers Coop Association Grain Elevator. It represents the start of the J Street “Cultural Arts Corridor” vision. When completed it will run 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.
That first phase of the J Street Trail project was combined with two other improvement projects, paving the Forest City Fire Hall’s parking lot and relocating/upgrading/elevating the recreational vehicle dumping station in Pammel Park.
“That will turn into a large city project,” Hertzer said. “The community is behind that as well. It will go right to Clark Street and all the businesses and services there. For pedestrians and bikers, it will be a good time to be in a community like this.”
Hertzer said there is a hope that conceptual, development and additional fundraising stages for continuation of the larger J Street Trail project can be realized within 3-4 years. City officials have said previously that this large undertaking will likely need to proceed in phases over at least several years.
In the long-term, the city hopes to completely redo J Street through town as part of this overall project with new paving, curbs and gutters, lighting and all necessary utility infrastructure, including the addition of underground electric.
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.