Plans moving along for McGregor trail

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On Nov. 19, a group of volunteers walked and marked a proposed one-mile trail through the wooded area between Center Street and Cemetery Road, in McGregor. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Plans are now underway to create a trail in McGregor, beginning with a segment through the wooded area between Center Street and Cemetery Road.

The 27-acre area is owned by the city, and the idea of developing a trail there has grown in the past few years, said Duane Boelman, McGregor’s deputy clerk and economic development lead, who organized a meeting earlier this month to discuss the proposed trail.

The proposed route would be roughly a mile long, with some twists and turns, Boelman shared.

“But there’s room to do alternate routes,” he said. “There’s a nice stand of pine trees and some nice rock out-croppings.”

The trail will be fairly primitive, utilized for walking and possibly biking. No motorized vehicles will be allowed.

On Nov. 19, a group of volunteers walked and marked the trail. Among them was Kenny Slocum, a naturalist with Clayton County Conservation, who has experience with trail building, including the new Well’s Hollow Trail at Bloody Run County Park, outside Marquette.

“That’s a very primitive trail,” he detailed, noting that he walked and flagged the trail first. A grant helped hire a crew to complete it. “It was a fairly simple process. We did most of it with hand tools.”

He and Boelman envision a similar process working for the McGregor trail.

“There are virtually no trees in the way,” said local arborist and trail enthusiast Dan Keyes, who’s also part of the planning group. “Visibility is good on this trail.”

Boelman said another unique aspect about this segment of the trail is that it will tie into one of the earliest roads in the area. Originally called the Coulee de Sioux Trail prior to extensive European settlement, the road later became known as the McGregor Trail. 

“It was a very busy trail. A lot of settlers crossed it,” he said, noting that the road went westward and eventually connected with the Oregon Trail.

Once this segment of the trail is completed, Boelman hopes other segments can be developed throughout the community, connecting with Marquette, Pikes Peak property and, eventually, the park itself.

“That’s long term, but I think it’s doable,” he said. “We’re lucky there’s a lot of public land.”

The DNR has been supportive of the idea and will be involved as planning moves forward.

Boelman also wants to see a trail head in downtown McGregor. That would encourage hikers to patronize the community’s shops, bars and restaurants.

“Trails can make a lot of economic impact on a community,” he said.

Kristie Austin, executive director of the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce, agreed: “This could bring in more millennials. This is what they’re looking for, what they’re looking to do.”

Boelman said McGregor City Administrator Lynette Sander will serve as treasurer of the group, and can help with writing grants for the project. 

McGregor and Marquette are also in the process of getting a Great Places re-designation. If the trail project is included in the proposal, grant funding could be available through that, he added.

If you would like to learn more about the proposed trail, or get involved with the project, contact Boelman at McGregor City Hall at (563) 873-3795.

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