Iowa’s Raccoon River Valley Trail receives national recognition

Allison Ullmann
Perry Chief
Members of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association board pose for a photo to help induct the RRVT into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Perry.

Central Iowans know about the Raccoon River Valley Trail and now those across the nation will as well following an induction ceremony Thursday into the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s National Hall of Fame.

“I’ve always thought the trail was super special myself, but now I know there are so many other people who love the trail like I do and they know that it’s an asset to each and every town along this trail,” said Sandy Lowe, chair of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association, during a ceremony in Perry.

She thanked those who helped vote for the RRVT, one of three nominees in the annual RTC contest. The other nominated trails included Delaware’s Georgetown-Lewes Trail and Junction and Breakwater Trail and New Hampshire's Northern Rail Trail.

Ryan Chao, president of the RTC, said a record-breaking 38,000 people voted this year. The RRVT received 42% of the vote to become the 2021 inductee to the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.

Those numbers showed how important the RRVT is as “a long-distance spine” in Iowa, he said, in how it connects 14 communities in central Iowa.

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Mike Wallace, executive director of the Dallas County Conservation Board, thought back to when the trail project started in the 1980s. 

“Mark Ackelson gave me a call one day, ‘Hey, I hear there’s a right of way available for sale, boy wouldn’t that make a great trail,’” Wallace said of the former president of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation.

Work started on raising funds and acquiring land through the railroad right of ways. The first section of the RRVT opened in 1989 and the now 89-mile trail connects communities across Dallas, Guthrie and Greene counties. 

The Raccoon River Valley Trail was inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021, in Perry.

The RRVT can now claim national attention as one of 35 trails inducted into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame, Chao said.

"You are one of 35, it’s an elite group of trails recognized for many things, scenic value, use, amenities, historical significance and community benefit. And the RRVT hits all of those categories, a very deserving addition to this elite group," he said.

Chao rode on the RRVT during a 19-mile ceremonial bike ride from Waukee to Perry with members of the RTC’s Trailblazer Society and the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association prior to Thursday's induction ceremony. 

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Lowe thanked the RTC for choosing the RRVT as one of the three nominees for the 2021 Rail-Trail Hall of Fame.

"This hall of fame nomination is such a great honor, cyclists from all across the country have already added us to their bucket list of trails that they have to do," she said. "The economic impact of that designation will have on the trail and the communities is so very, very important."