August 10, 2015
Whiterock Conservancy officially opened its new Backcountry Trail System Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by dozens of community leaders from Carroll, Greene and Guthrie counties.
These new trails, located east of Coon Rapids in the sweeping and picturesque Whiterock terrain, will provide increased access for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians to enjoy the amazing diversity of landscapes, Whiterock advocate say.
“This has been a long process that started with a vision held by the Garst family for decades; to open this land for the public to enjoy. I’m proud to be able to officially say the trails are open,” said Conrad Kramer, executive director of Whiterock Conservancy.
Kramer went on to say, “We have been fundraising for seven years, and it is because of the outpouring of community support that this trail system is possible. The entire project cost $4 million, with $1.7 million of that being in cash. We received $800,000 from federal grants, $400,000 from the state CAT grant and over $430,000 from 200 individuals, companies and local community governments and regional economic development organizations.”
The first step was the Garst family’s donation of the largest conservation land gift ever in the history of Iowa that created Whiterock 10 years ago.
Hikers, runners and nature explorers will find a total of 36.5 miles of trail available to explore including a new shared-use trail that circles nearly the entire property and provides vistas overlooking river valleys as well as fields of prairie flowers and shaded savanna areas.
The mountain bike trail features sections for riders of multiple ability levels, with significant elevation changes, challenging dissents and ascents, and great flow. One trail, the Long Creek Trail, is unique to Iowa because it is almost 5 miles long without any intersections.
The equestrian trails have been built in some timbered areas that have never before been open to the public for riding. The trails are through a combination of pastures, forest, savanna and prairie.
“Of course Whiterock is a nonprofit operating the third largest recreation area in the state without regular tax support,” Kramer said. “Iowans now need to decide if they value this new model of nongovernmental delivery of beautifully restored landscapes and quality recreational facilities enough to support Whiterock with their patronage and donations. Iowa is the most ecologically altered state in the nation and also has among the least public land available for recreation so, if any people would value an organization like Whiterock enough to make sure it succeeds, Iowans would be the ones.”
The trails are open every day for the public to come experience. To learn more visit whiterockconservancy.org.
Whiterock Conservancy is a nonprofit land trust stewarding 5,500 acres of prairie, savanna, wetland, cropland, pastures and forest along the Middle Raccoon River near Coon Rapids. In addition to preserving and protecting the rare wild land, Whiterock practices and demonstrates sustainable agriculture and is open to the public for recreation. Recreational opportunities include hiking, running, biking or horseback riding on the trail system, canoe and kayak trips, fishing and much more.
Whiterock offers primitive camping, modern accommodations including cottages and a house that sleeps up to 13, and a bed and breakfast in the historic Garst farmhouse where Roswell Garst hosted Nikita Khrushchev in 1959.
Courtesy of The Daily Times Herald 8/10/15 and Guthrie Center Times 8/12/15.