Thursday, September 24, 2009

Great news for the Wabash Trail!

Sorry to steal the headlines, but I figured this was worth mentioning.

The Omaha World Herald has an article about the Wabash trace receiving Federal funding to pave the middle part of the trail if enough money is raised to cover engineering costs. If the trail hosts raise a total of $55,000 ($30,000 of which has already been raised), the Federal government will provide an extra $2 million to pave the trail from Mineola to Shenandoah. This makes sense for those who would possibly venture further than the 9 miles to Mineola if the trail was not as tough.

Anyone who has ridden most or all of the trail knows that between Council Bluffs and Mineola, the trial is well used and very packed down. However, once past Mineola, the trail is used more sparsely, and therefore not as smooth. There's the paved quarter mile (or so) section just North of Shenandoah that always feels amazing after trudging over the limestone path most of the day. I can see this being a huge impact on trail use.

I plan on donating as much as my budget allows (unfortunately, not much) to aid in making this great achievement happen. Hopefully, if enough people pitch in, it'll be smooth sailing along the Wabash for years to come.

Edit: Ach! Scooped by Jules!!


Scott Redd said...

I have mixed emotions. Part of the attraction to this trail is the bit of "wild" that it offers. I do agree that once you get past Malvern or so, the conditions deteriorate rapidly, particularly if the trail is damp at all.

However, wouldn't it be cheaper to regrade with lots more gravel than to pave it? Pavement itself breaks up over time, and a wavy, broken paved trail would be worse than a gravel trail.

I understand that getting more bikes out is a good think, and the local economies of the host towns would benefit, too.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

RD said...

i think that's a horrible idea. Rail to trail trails should be limestone. I'm with Scott there is already plenty of paved trails in C.B.

munsoned said...

Yeah, I guess I kinda go back and forth about this. WAFFLE!! Sorry, thought that was funny. Anyway, I can see the point of keeping it rough for longer lasting easier upkeep. And a limestone trail keeps you on your toes compared to a paved trail where you can zone out after riding too many miles.

Don Kuhns said...

Drunken faceplants hurt less on gravel.

AOJules said...

Ha! Scooped indeed. :)
I am also on the fence as many of you seem to be. I am obviously in favor of getting more people riding bikes. However, after my awesome experience on the Mickelson Trail last weekend, there is a lot to be said for being forced to slow down and smell the roses, and non-paved surfaces sort of force you to do that.

Shim said...

Leave it be!

dale said...

Why pave some of the trail?
1) there is extra stimilus money not spent. Is the Wabash the best place to spend the non-spent money?

2) To encourage non gravel people to ride further - to see more trail and to bring some spending to the area. Will non limestone people drive to Mineola to ride pavement to Shanendoah? Or Shanendoah ride north to spread some biking love and money?

For those who prefer limestone, how many trips per year do they ride between Mineola and Shanendoah now? Will they not ride the Wabash if they pave it? I would assume a cement trail will be used more than a limestone trail.

These and other questions raised above e.g. the higher maintenance cost and speed change, should be asked/answered even before spending $55K imo. Or maybe that's what the $55k answers?

I've seen older paved trail that is more dangerous than gravel. Then it is usually replaced with cement. I would encourage a shorter section of cement over a longer section of paved trail.

I appreciate the experience of limestone. It's less civilized and more natural, imo. The times I prefer paved/cement is during/shortly after a rain.

Biker Bob said...

Last weekend I rode from CB to Blanchard on the Wabash. I asked several people along the route that lived in the various towns about the possibility of paving the Wabash. Most knew nothing of the possible paving project. But once I explained the basic idea most of them were negative on the idea.

The trail is easy enough to ride even for young kids on small bikes and I really don't think many people avoid it because it is not paved (with the possible exception of spandax clad carbon fiber riding roadies, and even they ride the Wabash from time to time already). I would guess that many people use it BECAUSE it is NOT paved (Running on limestone is better for the legs than running on cement).

Now here is where I'm confused. The grand majority of traffic would come from council bluffs. That means riders would have to ride 10+ miles of limestone before getting to the paved section. So how exactly would paving the trail for Mineola to Shenandoah actually increase ridership? If people avoid the trail because it's limestone now, they will still avoid it after the paving because they would still have to ride limestone from Council Bluffs.

I think the money would be better spent on maintenance infrastructure for the trail, like vehicles and equipment to clear the trail of debris regularly, and possibly to repair some of the bridges that need work south of Shenandoah. Maybe even paving some of the trouble spots or road crossings would be helpful. A campground or two along the trail or shelters with a water supply might be a good idea too.

It's great that we have funds to spend on the trail, but I don't think it's wise to rush ahead with paving the trail at this point.

Anyways, just my thoughts.

Blades said...

DON'T DO IT. Spend the money somewhere else or don't spend it at all. If we pave the Wabash, we'll all have to drive to Missouri to ride the Katy or Northern Nebraska to ride the Cowboy. -Joe