WATERLOO, Iowa --- The Cedar Valley Nature Trail is once again complete.
More than four years after record flooding destroyed two trail bridges over the Cedar River, the 52-mile recreational trail running from Evansdale to Hiawatha, near Cedar Rapids, no longer has a gap.
The Black Hawk County Board of Supervisors held a public hearing this past week to update a project to replace the 700-foot bridge near McFarlane Park, east of La Porte City.
"I skied across it last Monday," said Vern Fish, executive director of the county Conservation Board. "It's open. It's ready to go."
The McFarlane Bridge and another former railroad bridge crossing the Cedar in Evansdale were damaged beyond repair during the 2008 flood. The new Evansdale bridge opened in July 2011, but it took longer for the county and the Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments to find money to replace the McFarlane structure.
Eventually, the county secured a nearly $3 million federal community development block grant administered through the Iowa Department of Economic Development and roughly $400,000 in state recreational trail grants from the Iowa Transportation Commission. This week's hearing was a requirement of the block grant award.
"The project is to date ... 95 percent complete," said Brian Schoon, director of development and transit for INRCOG.
The project is coming in ahead of schedule and under budget due to a dry construction season and a lower-than-expected construction bid from Herberger Construction of Indianola.
The contract won't be finalized until the spring, when inspectors can make sure a wetlands project and plantings are taking hold.
Fish said a grand opening ceremony for the new bridge is tentatively slated May 4.