Trail expansion allows greater access to Clay County Fair

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
First-time fairgoers Tracy Elberts and Ryan Radermacher traveled along a new stretch of trail which connects the greater Spencer trail system to the Clay County Fairgrounds north parking lot. The trail is new to the fair this year, but Clay County Fair CEO and manager Jeremy Parsons said the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Photo by Colin Van Westen

The latest expansion of the Spencer trail system has connected the fair's north parking lot to the city's existing trail system. Clay County Fair CEO and manager Jeremy Parsons said fairgoers have primarily used the trail as a sidewalk to travel to and from the parking lot with little bicycle traffic so far.

"Throughout the rest of the year, non-fair time, we knew there would be tremendous benefits," Parsons said. "Obviously, people are going to use a trail on the fairgrounds connecting the fairgrounds to the city trail system. We didn't really know how it would work during the fair. I have absolutely been blown away by how positive of a change that trail has been in our parking lot. People can come to the fair, park their car, walk to that trail and get them off our road. It makes our parking lots safer and it just makes a better experience for our guests. The trail has really exceeded my wildest expectations of success."

Parsons noted the addition of the trail did cause changes to how the fair addresses parking.

"We had parked vehicles for many years up along that fence where that trail now is," Parsons said. "We had to shelve some parking in the campgrounds, some motorcycle parking."

The trail is just the latest addition in a process that began in 1990, according to Spencer Parks and Recreation Director Delray Bredehoeft. After completing a trails master plan for the city in 2003, the city first looked to connect to the south side of 18th Street, but further scrutiny led officials to alter plans which Bredehoeft referred to as "win-win" for the fair and the city.

"Initially our goal was to get around the whole community and we have accomplished that except from 10th Avenue East to Grand Avenue on 18th Street," Bredehoeft said. "That is our missing piece. We get that and we will be connected all the way around. That is why we did North School Park, Johnson School and Fairview School. We wanted to connect public facilities, schools and parks to the trail system. Essentially, you can walk out of your house, out to the sidewalk, go to the trail and get to anywhere in town. That is the eventual goal."

Expansion of the trail system beyond Spencer to the Dickinson County trail system is already under way. The new trail is projected to be finished sometime in October and will connect Fourth Avenue West on 18th Street to (the) Langdon road about 3 1/2 miles north. The county is expected to assist in continuing the expansion to the Dickinson County trail system to about a half-mile north of Fostoria.

The trails within Spencer were predominantly funded through Iowa Department of Transportation grants, Iowa Department of Natural Resources Resource Enhancement and Protection grants and the 1995 bond issue which provided $500,000 for trail development.

"All of our trails are what you call multipurpose trails, so they can be used by bicycles and they are based on state requirements and construction guidelines," Bredehoeft said. "The trail is going to be 10 feet wide and there are a couple of exceptions where they didn't have enough room, so we reduced them down to eight. That's the whole idea, that a bicycle and a pedestrian can be on there at the same time and they will feel safe walking up and down the trail."

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