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Mason city engineering firm WHKS & Co. was awarded a professional services agreement for High Line Trail Bridge inspection and improvement at a Mason City Council meeting Tuesday night.

That decision, which is not to exceed a fee of $5,200 including expenses, comes almost three months after the purchase of three tracts of land along the southern section of the High Line Trail from Iowa's Natural Heritage Foundation for $1.7 million.

The INHF had acquired the property from the Union Pacific Railroad in late February.

During Tuesday night's meeting, Mason City Engineer Mark Rahm said that rails and ties along the southern portion of the trail had been mostly cleared and the land was being "tidied up."

While that stretch of trail from mile post 155.5 to 157.5 is coming along, there has been a bit of a delay on the back track of the trail, according to Rahm.

When city council approved the southern purchase in March, there was a target date to purchase the northern segment "sometime this summer."

But according to City Administrator Aaron Burnett, that is still fluid with getting all the work and approvals finalized.

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For its part, WHKS will inspect and analyze the structural integrity of four existing bridges on the trail before those bridges are incorporated into the system.

The trail will be covered in gravel initially, but will be eventually paved with blacktop.

Burnett said that specific sections will be opened as funding becomes available to complete the work. 

"The city has budgeted for the purchase and the beginning of the work, but private funding and grant funding will also need to be collected to get the trail completely open," he said. "Without private funding and grants, that progress will be slow."

At this time, the specific fundraising routes have still not been explicitly spelled out.

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