A Trail of Two Cities: New JewEllsworth Trail bridges two Iowa communities
The story of the JewEllsworth Trail begins with the farm crisis of the early 1980s. For Rick Young, city councilman and lifelong resident of Jewell, the crisis was the beginning of the end for Iowa’s small rural communities. In Hamilton County, dwindling populations devastated cities long defined by hard work and heart. Those who remained, like Young, dedicated themselves to finding new opportunities for their communities — even crazy ideas like building a trail along the old railroad corridor between the central Iowa cities of Jewell and Ellsworth.
“It was about 2006 that we found out the rail line was being abandoned, and the community got together to discuss it,” Young said. “I looked around at all of us sitting there — we were in our fifties and sixties, farmers, rednecks… and we said, we’re not ‘trail people.’ Trail people are young — they bike, they run. But we also said, if this is going to be good for our community, we have to get on board.”
Brian Lammers, director of Hamilton County Conservation Board, recommended the local committee get in touch with Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation for guidance on how to bring a trail project to life. Once INHF was on board, Young said, things really started happening.
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