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Ottumwa Trails Plan Brings Trails into Neighborhoods

By Ellis Codjoe, August 23, 2017

More than two million dollars have been spent to date to construct more than 12 miles of activity trails in Ottumwa. Now, one group wants to expand the system even further.

The trail system began in 1998 with the construction of the Ottumwa Park Trail. Since then, trails have been constructed along both sides of the Des Moines River from near Turkey Island to the area surrounding the Grey Eagle Wildlife preserve.

The project has been funded almost entirely through grant funds and private donations. The most expensive single piece of the system, the underpass that runs under Highway 34 near the Quincy Place Mall, came in at a price tag of more than $650,000. It was funded in part by the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, the City of Ottumwa, Wapello County, Vision Iowa, John Deere, the Wapello County Foundation and community donations.

The project began nearly 20 years ago, with improvements installed nearly every year between 2006 and 2014. Now several community members want to continue expanding the trail system over the next 20 years.

The Area 15 Regional Planning Commission presented a new plan to the council Tuesday evening. The next phase involves bringing trails into the residential neighborhoods. In many places, that means expanded sidewalks, six or eight feet wide. In other, it could involve expanding the roadway to include a dedicated bike/walk lane.

The proposal is split into multiple phases and priorities.


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Priority 1 on the south side of Ottumwa involves extending the path behind the Church street business district. The path would continue behind Richmond Avenue, linking to the existing parks trail with a new bridge over the Oxbow lagoon.

Priority 1 on the south side also includes installing an eight foot path along Milner Street from Richmond Avenue to Mary Street, and a six foot path along Mary Street from Madison Avenue to Shaul Avenue/Lake Road.

Phase two includes paths along much of Finley Avenue, Albia Road, Quincy Avenue, Ferry Street and Sheridan Street. Smaller paths are also proposed for Williams Street West of Ferry, through Wildwood Park and on Albia Road West of Wildwood.

Finally, a scenic corridor is proposed along the Kettle Creek watershed from the Quincy Place Mall to Wildwood Park.


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Priority 1 on the north side of Ottumwa begins with an eight foot trail running north along Market Street to Fourth Street. The trail jogs northwest one block before following Court Street all the way to Highway 149.

Priority 2 involves six foot trails along Carter Avenue, through Indian Hills Community College ending at Alta Vista, along Pennsylvania Avenue east of Court Street to the city limits, and along fourth street from the High School to Iowa Avenue. An eight foot path is proposed for McPherson Avenue and Park Avenue from Main Street to Court Street.

Priority 3 paths include an eight foot path along Iowa Avenue and Elm Street, beginning near JBS and terminating at Alta Vista Avenue. An additional eight foot path is proposed for Alta Vista from Court to the entrance to Indian Hills Community College.

Finally, a scenic corridor is proposed for the largely wooded area west of Highway 149. The trail would begin near Eisenhower Elementary School, traveling through the woods before terminating near Caldwell Park on the west end of Ottumwa.

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