Build that trail

Build that trail

Back in the day, the Iowa Department of Transportation had a plan to connect two major bike trails to Storm Lake: one runs through the Iowa Great Lakes, and the other runs from Lake View to Carroll and, eventually, even to Des Moines. Then-Director Mark Wandro in the Vilsack Administration suggested that a bike trail could run along an expanded shoulder of Hwy. 71. For reasons we never understood, nothing materialized.

In its latest five-year plan, IDOT contemplated widening Hwy. 71 south of Storm Lake. It would be a good time to resurrect the idea of a bike trail running to Lake View.

It is not the ideal location. Riding a bike along a US highway may not be like riding the trail along the Raccoon River in Greene County. But a lot of people from this area drive to Lake View to get on a decent bike trail. You can only ride up and down the LakeTrail on the north shore of Storm Lake so many times.

The Great Lakes bike trail is a real gem. It runs alongside state highways and county blacktops. It’s a fun ride.

Linking those two major bike trails would be a real win for recreation in western Iowa.

The Iowa Lakes Corridor of Opportunity should use its four-county clout to convince IDOT that now is the time to invest a few extra bucks and create a quality bike trail from Lake View to Milford.

It will be used. Someone from Storm Lake could have a nice day ride to Sioux Rapids and back, or to Carroll and back. Many bikers — a lot more than you might think — would savor a ride from Carroll to Milford, with a nice half-way stop in Storm Lake.

Bike trails on extended road shoulders are relatively cheap to build and even cheaper to maintain.

Bicycling is a rapidly growing outdoor recreational activity. It is popular with young and old. It requires no special expertise or habitat stamp. It just requires the desire to get out and roll.

Iowa prides itself on its network of bike trails. It is a shame there is no major bike trail connecting to Storm Lake. This is our chance.


An awful farm bill

Disturbing and discouraging are the first two words that pop to mind over the Senate’s approval of a new five-year federal farm bill that cuts funding for nutrition programs by $4 billion. Even more disturbing and discouraging is that the House wants to cut at least 10 times that much — $40 billion — to the program commonly known as food stamps.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack notes that 92% of food stamp recipients are the elderly and disabled, and the working poor households with both parents working.

George McGovern and Bob Dole, one Democrat and one Republican, called the food stamp program the most efficient public nutrition program in the world. Because of it, there is no reason for an American to starve. And because of it, aid to agriculture (crop insurance, marketing loans and the like) receives significant support from urban members of Congress.

A steady assault is being waged on the social safety net by ideologues. They cite the current deficit (which is shrinking) as the reason for whacking nutrition programs. And they attack Medicare, Medicaid a chip here and a chip there. They try to privatize Social Security. The idea that no American should fall through the cracks is falling through the cracks.

Nutrition programs help children learn better, especially at tender ages. Sometimes they help alleviate problems with over-production (a recurring theme in agriculture) through milk and cheese distribution. They help provide senior citizens in isolated rural areas community feeding programs. The list goes on. Growing nutrition programs can help grow the economy, especially in improverished rural areas. But our best prospect is to actually cut funding for one of the great programs that helps little people.

It’s something Americans used to agree on, until the radicals took control of Washington. Now it is the core issue that holds back a farm bill. Discouraging. And disturbing.