On Thursday, March 30, the fourth annual Bike Trail Conference was held at the Hotel Pattee in Perry. The goal of the conference was to inform fellow Iowa trail enthusiasts and participants about both the Raccoon Valley Trail and High Trestle Trail, as well as to create connection among those in Iowa who wish to jump start their specific trail program.
Conference Planning Committee member and Retired Perry City Administrator, Butch Niebuhr, said the conference typically hosts around 60 attendees.
Planning for the conference began at the beginning of the year, Niebuhr said, in order to work around last-minute changes to guest speakers.
This year’s speakers included Perry Mayor Jay Pattee, Director of the Dallas County Conservation Board, Mike Wallace, Digital Marketing Manager at the Iowa Tourism Office, Amy Zeigler, Director of Small Business Resources for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Christina Moffatt, Director of Marketing at the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Kristine Reeves, Director of Marketing at the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Erin Haines, and Marketing and PR Manager at the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau, Addison Bratvold.
Visitors came to learn and network with those involved in both the Raccoon Valley Trail and High Trestle Trail.
City Administrator from Ogden, Jane Zahasky had previously been to trail meetings, but wanted to discover how trails impact a community.
Previous attendee and Granger Trails Committee member, Sharon Wiese, recently received a grant from Trees Forever in order to further the growth of trails inside and outside of Granger.
“Everybody around us has trails, but nobody has focused on Granger, so that’s what we’re trying to do,” Wiese said. “That’s why we’re here - to spread the word.”
Director of Dallas County Conservation Board, Mike Wallace, presented about the results of a Trail Economic Impact Study conducted by Iowa State students last summer.
Phase one of the study consisted of students surveying the trail system users, and phase two included field surveys and interviews. The results were collected over a three-month period.
Wallace said students will create a marketing plan based off of the data collected this year.
The overall study received 649 electronic responses and 201 field responses.
“On the Raccoon Valley Trail in Dallas Center, based on the trail use, dollar amount brought in, and number of people, it seems to be in a position to show that most money for the trail goes towards Dallas Center,” Wallace said. “It’s probably more of the logistics or the location of the trail.”
Wallace mentioned most users start at Waukee, utilizing Dallas Center as a turnaround area.
“I think they are in the right place at the right time, and they’re trying to enhance their community and their trail head because of that,” Wallace said.
Following Dallas Center, trail heads with the most time spent on by users included Perry and Waukee.
According to a population basis, Waukee is the largest trail head used. Perry is the second largest.
“What I think Perry has going for it is more of a destination point,” Wallace said.
The results revealed the largest usage behind utilizing the trail is due to exercise and training purposes.
The average trail user is between the ages of 45 and 64 years old, and the average amount of money spent while using the trail is around an average of $13 per person, per visit.
Money is typically spent on drinks, snacks, and food, Wallace recalled from the results.
The average ride consists of 11-20 miles, but 21-40 miles came in second.
Wallace also provided a graph showing overall total financial benefits from the years of 2012-2014.
“On the High Trestle Trail, we’re over $400,000, closer to $500,000,” Wallace said. “On the Raccoon River Trail, it’s over $300,000.”
Coon Rapids Development Group member and Conference Attendee, Liz Garst, is jealous, she laughed.
“We’re working on a connector trail,” Garst said.
Garst was interested in networking with those involved in the creation of both trails, as well as bringing information back to Coon Rapids.
During the introduction by Mayor Jay Pattee, Pattee recalled a story of a visit to a small-town, local bakery because of it’s location on the trail.
“That little town had a positive effect on the trail; the trail had a positive effect on the town,” Pattee said.
Revenue from the trail increases throughout the summertime as more bikers frequently visit, Pattee said.
“A lot of disbelievers have become believers in Perry, Iowa,” Pattee recalled, discussing the early stages of making Perry a hot-spot for the Raccoon Valley Trail.
The relationship between a trail and local businesses worked as theme throughout the conference.
Other sections of the conference included sessions on “Taking Advantage of Trail Marketing Opportunities through the Iowa Tourism Office,” by Amy Zeigler, “Target Marketing on a Small Business Budget -Ideas You Can Adapt for Your Small Business,” by Christina Moffatt and Kristine Reeves, “Marketing Des Moines and Central Iowa Trails and How You Can Use the Same Concepts to Market Your Business and Your Community to Trail Users,” by Erin Haines and Addison Bratvold, and “Call To Action: Moving from Ideas to Action,” by Jay Pattee.