In cooperation with several community partners, the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) completed the Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Plan which envisions an abundant network of water recreation for 150 miles of the region’s creeks and rivers, including places for tubing, birding, hiking, paddling, boating, and fishing, the establishment of area greenways, floodplain protection and improved habitat. The plan covers the Des Moines, Raccoon, South Skunk, North and Middle rivers, as well as Beaver, Fourmile, Mud and Walnut creeks. When implemented, the recommendations outlined in the plan will bring about transformational change – reconnecting thousands of people with the rivers as a keystone natural resource.
Water trails are recreational corridors and routes on rivers and lakes that provide a unique experience all water users. Water trails help re-connect Iowans to their waterways’ history, heritage, geology, fisheries, and wildlife. Water trails provide adequate access and can include amenities like riverside camping, wild spaces, picnic areas, and restrooms, and watercraft rentals provided by local, state, and federal partners. Coordinated signage and mapping systems guide users toward the types of experiences they seek, ranging from a highly social first-time river experience lasting a few hours to multi-day adventures. Water trails help boost local economies and give central Iowans outdoor experiences just out their back doors.
The MPO received funding from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to develop a regional water trails plan. Now developed, the plan provides the region a road-map for enhancing citizen experiences in and along the waterways in Greater Des Moines.
We couldn’t have imagined 20-30 years ago what long-term impact the paved trail system would have on our region. With 150 miles of streams, there are abundant places to offer tubing, fishing, paddling, respite, stone skipping and mucking around. The Greater Des Moines Water Trails and Greenways Plan, when implemented, will reimagine and reconnect us with our river roots.
The plan was adopted on November 17, 2016, at which time the MPO, on behalf of the region, will transition to regional coordination of implementation of projects listed in the vision document.