American Falls, Power County hope to fund study on trail system

by Daniel Moore

Press Staff Writer

The American Falls City Council pledged $3,000 of carryover funds to study the development of a trail from Willow Bay to Massacre Rocks in its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

The money will go to a feasibility study to see how such a trail would be possible. It will be in addition to $10,000 from Power County and a $15,000 grant from USDA Rural Development. They city also hopes to receive a state grant for $50,000 for the study. With private donations included, the city would have over $80,000 to perform a study that would answer a lot of questions about how the trail would work.

The city council had plenty of questions. Talks about a trail have been around for years, but were abandoned when a few landowners expressed concern about the trail, and a strip of land the city hoped to use was found to be deeded specifically for hunting and fishing uses.

Now, if the study goes through, American Falls Mayor Marc Beitia hopes to show that building a trail is still a possibility. Once the study is performed, the city will have the ability to apply for federal grants that could pay for at last a portion of the trail, he said. They do not know yet if the whole trail could be built at once or in pieces, though it is likely that the city will need to break the trail down into manageable chunks.

“There will be sections of the trail that will be easier (to build) than others,” Beitia said.

Council member Gilbert Hofmeister asked what the chances are that the city would get federal funding for the trail. Beitia said he thought they were good. Beitia said they had the support of the Bureau of Reclamation, which controls land where a significant amount of the trail would be placed. That would help gain the grant, he said.

“I think it’s positive, considering the atmosphere and support of the BOR,” he said. He added that projects with a feasibility study completed are much more likely to be funded than if there is no feasibility study.

Stuart Pankratz wanted to know how much the maintenance on the trail would be. Specifically, he wanted to know how much of the trail would be asphalt, which requires a higher level of maintenance than dirt.

“I don’t want to build a bunch of high maintenance trails,” he said.

Beitia said he did not think any more of the trail than what was already asphalt would be asphalt. However, the current trail the city maintains out to Willow Bay is in need of new asphalt, and this project could be extended to replace that, Beitia said. If nothing else is completed, it would be beneficial to continue on the project in hopes of just maintain the city’s current trails, Beitia said.

Hofmeister said he has heard both positive and negative feedback about the trail. People wonder why the city is taking the lead on the trail, even though the majority of the trail lies outside city limits.

 “I think the trail has always been a good idea,” Beitia said, saying that the trail could bring tourists and their spending money. “It’s a $3,000 investment that could turn into tens of thousands for the community. I don’t think it is a bad investment.”

Council member Dan Hammond said there were some landowners that were hesitant about the trail when it was first suggested. Beitia said they had partnered with some other agencies earlier that did not approach the landowners as they should have. The landowners have not yet been officially approached about the trail, he said.

“I fully realize that this is a project I’m pushing,” Beitia said. “It won’t offend me if you vote no.”

However, despite their questions, the city council felt like it was a project worth supporting. They approved the $3,000, as well as $2,500 in in-kind labor to the project.

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