The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Fix of flood damage to beloved Cedar Rapids trails not expected for months

In City Hall, Floods on February 26, 2009 at 11:36 am

It was nice and warm enough Wednesday to start thinking about the Spandex shorts and a first bicycle ride of the year.

Go easy.

Dave Smith, the city’s parks superintendent, reports that major flood damage on sections of both the paved Cedar River Trail and the unpaved Sac & Fox Trail isn’t apt to be repaired until late summer at the earliest.

Sections of both trails are being used and have been since the flood, but it will be months before someone can traverse the full extent of either trail, Smith says. In fact, the city isn’t “recommending” use of the Sax & Fox, though that isn’t stopping some.

Both trails are in the same boat.

The city’s damage-assessment consultant has come up with a cost estimate of damage as has the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That process will result in FEMA’s decision for reimbursement to the city to make the repairs. The city will then seek bids and a winning contractor will do the work.

As for the Cedar River Trail, Smith says users can and have been able to use the trail from its northern end at Hiawatha through the downtown. Users then must move into the city’s Park and Ride lot at Ninth Avenue SE where the new railroad bridge is going up, before they can continue on the trail to just south of Czech Village.

It is the next mile of trail, though, that remains closed. At one point, the trail was ripped up for the removal of a flood-damage bridge that crosses the river at the former Farmstead plant. Farther on, the river bank is washed out right to the trail edge, with debris and a fence collapsed on the trail. Once the trail begins to gain some height, it is fine all the way to the southern end south of Ely Road.

This summer, Smith says, should see a fix of the damage and also extend the southern edge of the trail to 76th Avenue SW.

As for the Sac and Fox Trail, Smith says pretty much the entire trail was flooded. There are several places where flood water has left mud and debris and has caused blowouts and deep cuts in the trail. In addition, the pedestrian bridge just north of Mount Vernon Road SE remains collapsed and in Indian Creek. The bridge needs to be pulled out and its supports rebuilt before the bridge can be reset or replaced.

The Sac & Fox is an unpaved trail, or as Smith says, “It was a primitive trail and now it’s real primitive.”

Smith says the city is “not recommending” the trail’s use, but some are using stretches of it, and some don’t mind the additional challenge, he says.

  1. Utilize the Youth Volunteer Groups, such as Scouts. They do this as Service Projects to earn their Eagle Badge as well as serving their community. The city may need to supply things that are beyond what a 16 year old can afford, but they are free manual labor.

  2. The City should explore using AmeriCorps and VISTA workers to work on or repair the trails. There are hundreds of them in Cedar Rapids operating out of the volunteer center on the NW side.

  3. The damage is vast. While the Scouts would grab hold of this, it would take hundreds of troops and thousands of their hours to make a dent. Much of this is heavy equipment-type activity.

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