The High Trestle Trail bridge.

A proposed cross-country network of recreational trails called the Great American Rail Trail would follow a 465-mile path through Iowa.

Existing trails cover about half that distance, according to the Rail Trail Conservancy which created the route. Lisa Hein , of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, says to finish the job, local and state groups need to step up efforts to connect trail systems.

Hein says, “We have enough funding to do maybe three to ten miles a year and if we have 150 miles of connections that we need to still make to complete the Great American Rail Trail across Iowa, it’s going to take a few years.” On average, Hein says building one mile of trail costs 300- to 400-thousand dollars.

Some 53-percent of the Iowa route is made up of existing trails like the Lake Manawa Trail and the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, but there are still hundreds of miles of gaps in between. Mike Wallace, executive director of the Dallas County Conservation Board, says they plan to finish one of them — a nine-mile stretch between the High Trestle Trail and the Raccoon River Trail northwest of Des Moines.

“We know we can do at least another mile, but that will be done in 2020,” Wallace says. “One piece of the puzzle at a time, I guess.” The Great American Rail Trail for hiking and cycling would travel from Council Bluffs in western Iowa to Davenport in the east. Nationwide, it would stretch 37-hundred miles from Washington, D.C. to Washington state.

(Thanks to Grant Gerlock, Iowa Public Radio)