Viking Lake State Park opened in 1951, and much of the area remains wild, overflowing with wildflowers and native plants. Other areas offer prime opportunities to spot deer, shorebirds, muskrats, beavers, turkeys, and ducks. The park also is home to two trails: The 0.9 mile-long Bur Oak Interpretive Trail and the 6.3 mile-long White-Tail Trail.
While Viking Lake draws 100,000 to 150,000 visitors per year, with 15,000 using the in-park trails, there is no good trail connection between the lake and Stanton itself. As a result, local businesses, the city, and the county miss out on a significant economic impact.
To overcome this challenge, the community needs to construct a trail connecting both the downtown area and the existing Stanton Greenbelt Trail with Viking Lake. As it sits today, the Stanton Greenbelt Trail nearly encircles the community. The paved concrete trail passes by the school and the Viking Center, too, both of which are pillars of the community.
While trail construction and any associated right of way acquisition can be expensive, the community will see a significant return on its investment through both the projects outlined in this action plan as well as projects that will follow as a result of developing the trail.
It is assumed that the first mile of trail west of Viking Lake State Park will be navigated on 230th Street. From that point, local leaders will need to determine a feasible route to connect the trail to the community. This will require working in tandem with Montgomery County, the city, and impacted property owners. Like the existing Stanton Greenbelt Trail, a key to success will be ensuring connections and overall proximity to points of interest in town.
In this vein of enhancing community connectivity, it will be imperative to create a trail spur on Broad Avenue. With the other placemaking projects all being located on or within half a block of Broad Avenue, the trail spur will perhaps be the most impactful component of this entire placemaking strategy. Provided wayfinding signage is installed, the trail spur will funnel Viking Lake visitors and other bicyclists into Stanton’s downtown, thereby opening the other efforts up to an entirely new audience and their pocketbooks.
Broad Avenue has significant width, so the trail spur should simply be an on-street facility. The community could consider a protected bike lane, positioning the lane between the existing sidewalk and re-striping the parking stalls to provide for parallel parking; multiple studies have shown the safety benefits of parallel parking over angle parking. Further, reducing the width of the travel lane slows vehicular traffic, increasing the opportunity for people to actually see the shops along Broad Avenue and increasing the likelihood that people will stop into those entities.
Biking is more than recreation; it’s an economic development tool. A study from the Iowa Bicycle Coalition and the University of Northern Iowa Sustainable Tourism and Environment Program found that recreational cyclists’ spending generated $364.8 million in direct and indirect impacts across the state; that’s $1 million per day spent for cycling.
Beyond its direct monetary impact, biking also helps Iowans’ health. The study estimates the state saves $73.9 million in healthcare costs for those who bicycle recreationally and another $13.3 million for those who commute via bike.
The Action Steps
Finalize preferred trail route
Secure capital for construction & right-of-way acquisition
Eric Paulson and Dick Lovitt, transportation committee
Create fundraising map. Prioritize asks. Consider grant opportunities, including through the Southwest Iowa Planning Council, the Iowa Department of Transportation, and others focused on healthy living. Continue conversations with impacted property owners.