Back in the 1930’s, the Waverly City Council had some extra spending money and were contemplating how best to use it. My mother went before the Council and asked them to fund a city summer recreation for children.
After more deliberation, the Council decided to build an arch over the Main Street Bridge with “Waverly, Dairy Spot of Iowa” emblazoned on it. I always liked that arch and was rather proud to live in the Dairy Spot of Iowa. But I don’t think my mother ever crossed the bridge and went through the arch without muttering some derogatory comment about that City Council.
However, things have looked up for recreation in Waverly since then. City Councils have developed the Parks and Recreation Commission and the Parks and Recreation Department in the city administration. We now have recreation programs for children and adults not only in the summer, but all year round. Through the years many volunteers have worked with the city officials to develop the many recreation opportunities we have, for example, the 18 hole golf course, Kid’s Kingdom and this summer the new skate park. And now we have the Rail Trail.
In 1991, after learning that the Cedar Valley Railroad had applied for abandonment of the line from Waverly to Readlyn, a number of people got the idea that this would make a fine recreational trail. Ed Brown contacted the Iowa Trails Council for advice and Tom Neenan come up to help us out. We formed a Bremer County Chapter of the Iowa Trails Council with members from Waverly, Denver, Readlyn, and Tripoli and started negotiating with the railroad. Then the railroad and the dinner train filed for bankruptcy. In those proceedings, the Dinner Train was found to own the line from Waverly to Highway 63 and they decided to keep using it for their business. We tried to buy the line from Highway 63 to Readlyn but the railroad wanted twice as much as we thought we could raise and the opportunity was lost. Ed Brown and I from Waverly and Louie Hartman from Readlyn are the lone survivors of that effort.
Since that time, a lot more interest in recreational trails has developed. The examples of the Root River Trail at Lanesboro and the rail system in Cedar Falls and Waterloo have demonstrated to many of us the possibilities these trails offer.
In 1997 the City’s Parks and Recreation Department got together with a number of people interested in biking to talk about bike paths in the city. A biking committee was formed and Tab Ray put in for a grant for a path along 1st Street NW and South West from the Stockwell Bridge to South East School. A grant was obtained but the design criteria said there would have to be a bridge across the dry run separate from the street bridge. The amount of the grant wasn’t enough to cover this so it was back to the drawing board. Trains Unlimited then went out of business and the time was right for a rail trail. Mayor Zelle and the City Council gave the go ahead. Tab Ray got the grant altered so the money could be used to buy the right of way. Tab and Mike Cherry drew up another grant application for Trail Development. Jan Johnson put in a good word for Waverly at the DOT, and much to my surprise, the grant came through for a $1 million project, $700,000 for the DOT, $300,000 to be matched by the city. After some tough negotiations, the land was purchased from the creditors of Trains Unlimited.
Our Rail Trail mailing list has grown to 140 and the committee has worked to support the project and to provide volunteer help in trail development. Last spring, high school students spend Earth Day picking up trash and clearing brush along the right of way. Bremwood students and Julie Kneip’s girls scout troup have helped with similar projects. Volunteers spent four Saturday mornings clearing brush along fences that need rebuilding. Finally, this summer construction got underway and now the bridges are repaired, the trail is paved, and from the numbers of people of all ages that have been using it, I’d say the Waverly Rail Trail is a great success!
So, where do we go from here? First, there still are plenty of opportunities for further development of the trail more clean up work, areas developed for benches, picnic tables, etc. Kwik Star plans to expand their store next to the track with more parking space and, most important of all, with restroom facilities that will accommodate trail users. Scott Kollenkark has suggested a rollerblade event during next Year’s Heritage Days. There are lots of areas along the trail for community projects such as wild flower or prairie development, tree planting, bridge signs, etc.
What are the possibilities of extending the trail? Denver is very interested in connecting to the trail. They have a plan for where the trail will go and in October hope to get grant money to start work. The possibility to connect the west end of the trail to Cedar Bend Park has been looked into. There is a possibility the right away from Highway 63 to Readlyn can be purchased and developed into a trail. Probably farther into the future as a connection to Shell Rock and to Janesville and Cedar Falls.
Today we’re very happy to have the Waverly Rail Trail ready for our enjoyment. We have a lot of people to thank for getting us this far Mayors, City Councils, City Administrations and Employees, the Parks and Recreation Commission and many other volunteers including the Iowa Trails Council.
So let’s enjoy the Trail!
September 19, 1999
Dr. Jim Rathe